I just thought that needed to be noted. Especially on this, such a fine, fine Christmas Eve.
Happy Festivus, one and all.
I just thought that needed to be noted. Especially on this, such a fine, fine Christmas Eve.
Happy Festivus, one and all.
Things have been a bit quiet here on Left of the Dial. One reason is because I've been blogging over at a new blog, Reason to Believe, with old friend and regular Left o' the Dialian DT. The new blog is pretty much entirely devoted to music, at least for now, so I might post less music-related stuff here. Then again, maybe not, since that would just leave funny or sweet family stories and, honestly, we simply don't have much such material these days.
Hm. Probably time to throw them all into Thunderdome and see what happens. Bet there'd be some funny and sweet stories then.
Hey, whoever keeps googling “scott peterson update 2007”—you do know I’m not that other guy, yes?
I mean, don’t get me wrong, it’s nice having you here and all. I just don’t want you to be disappointed. Or to stalk me. I’ve got enough 'lil peoples following me around the house already. And you’re not nearly as cute.
Don’t feel bad about that, though. No one else is either.
Why do they say I was tagged thusly?
This rating was determined based on the presence of the following words:
Let the record show that I suspect at least two of the three times were for mentioning the Vice President of the United States by name. I mean, sheesh. It's not like I told someone to go Cheney themselves on the floor of the Senate.
Even automatic ratings boards think I'm not safe for children.
I'm bad. I'm nationwide.
I’m the second Google hit for burned labia. The first hit if you’ve got Safe Search turned on, which removes the real first hit. Which, somehow unsurprisingly, is for Britney Spears.
And to think my high school speech teacher said—okay, screamed—that I’d never amount to anything.
[UPDATE: In case you were wondering, this is the post which contains the phrase “burning labia.”]
I don't know who was searching for "historical fiction alaska explosion opthamologist" but they must have been mighty disappointed when Left of the Dial was one of the first hits.
But now I'm most intrigued. What was this person looking for? Is there really such a book? Can it possibly be as wonderful as it sounds? Is there a market for a book like that? Have I stumbled onto a veritable gold mine of story?
Ah! But suddenly things become at least slightly clearer. You see, the searcher spelled "ophthalmologist" wrong. And that's why he ended up with Left of the Dial as a result (as well as about a hundred other joints). But if he spelled it right, he'd get one hundred times as many results.
Which leads one to suspect I'd misspelled it earlier myself in a previous piece. But obviously that's an impossibility.
So I no longer have access to all the groovy webtools I’d accumulated on my otherwise ancient office computer on which I've worked (well, sometimes) for six years. So I have little idea where my hits are coming from these days, although I get email updates informing me of the quantity, and I must say I’m touched and astonished at how many people seem to be checking in regularly. And given the impressive lack of quality when it comes to my now rather irregular posts, that’s all the more touching. I must admit, I’m a tiny bit verklempt.
Anyhoo, I was browsing some blogs with which I've not kept in touch in two and a half weeks, and one of ’em had that handy-dandy Technorati thang where you can see who links there. So I checked it out and realized I could see who linked to me. And was shocked to discover something like 80 links. I’d have thought a dozen or two. Nice. Several of them I’d never noticed before, at least one of which is because I think she started linking to me whilst I was somewhere in the wilds of Arkansas. She’s got a neat blog with a fantastic name— The Wine Dark Sea—and I don’t just say that because she liked one of my pieces and has defended it rather vociferously.
Because, it seems, at least one of her readers? Yeah, not so much. As in, she thinks I’m bad. Which, of course, is true. But I’m not sure how she picked up on that so quickly. People are sharp these days.
Okay. So the topic is the Harry Potter books, about which I've written several times in the past. Specifically, the talk turns to the incident where Harry gets caught breaking the rules, flying when he’s specifically been told not to by a teacher—because one brand-new student had just seriously injured himself by flying when he had no idea what he was doing—and rather than getting punished, Harry gets put on the Quidditch team instead, a particularly bizarre turn of events given that, as a first year student, Harry’s automatically ineligible for the team.
I had only read your posts and excerpts when I commented. Now, I have read Scott Peterson and think he's horrid and arrogant. When McGonagle puts Harry on the Quidditch team it is *as the Seeker*, that is the person *who can grab small things out of the air*, so she saw him grab the Remembrall, so Scott missed the subtlety there.
Well, that hurts.
On the other hand, I didn’t exactly go out of my way to spare Ms. Rowling’s feelings so I reckon I can’t object too much. And, of course, it’s true—I am horrid and arrogant. Actually, I’m mainly horridly arrogant, although I've tried being arrogantly horrid and found it just didn’t work for me at all. My singing, on the other foot, is simply plain horrid. Nothing to be arrogant about there a’tall. Nosirreebob.
[What Jane M correctly views as “horrid and arrogant” Top Management prefers to view as “cocky and “sarcastic.” Me? Deep down, I’m just a scared little boy who so wants to be loved.]
I have to admit, however, I’m a bit befuddled by the logic in that there excuse for McGonagall’s inexcusable actions—because Harry was put on the team to be the Seeker, it’s okay that it all came about because he got caught breaking the rules? Is…is being the Seeker some sort of punishment? Because I gotta say, I don’t really think that came through very clearly in any of the books. I mean, I know Rowling’s not as great a writer as some without a decent knowledge of kid lit believe, but even she’s not that bad normally. Or maybe I just missed that subtle subtlety. In future books, when Draco Malfoy becomes Seeker for his house, is he also being punished for something?
I’m very confused by all this.
Okay, just to make sure extra special sure I completely understand how it works:
1) McGonagall catches Harry breaking the rules, albeit in a most impressive way.
2) McGonagall “punishes” Harry by breaking the rules herself and putting him on the Quidditch team so as to take advantage of his newly discovered skills and therefore, hopefully, allow her house to finally win the Cup back from Snape, something she admits she desperately wants.
3) Harry wins much praise as a star Quidditch player.
Hm. Yeah, I’m afraid I’m still missing some of the finer points as to how this is an example of Harry being punished for doing something wrong. Must be too subtle. Much like a Bludger.
By the by, it’s come to my attention that some of you long-time Left of the Dial readers are apparently unaware that it’s possible to leave comments after a post. I say this not to get more comments—some folks just wanna read, and that’s absolutely fine—but because you might be interested in what others have said in response.
Additionally, I often post follow-ups to my own posts in the comments section, if I’ve discovered additional information or [what I consider] a funny little side-story or whatever.
After each post there’s a little link you can click to read and/or leave comments. Also, in the sidebar there’s a list of the most recent comments.
And finally, as with all such joints, the Undisputed Master and Damn-Near Infallible Dictator of This Here Site [that’s me, aka Party of the First Part, except when he’s actually Party of the Second Part or The Defendant] does not necessary endorse or agree with any of the comments posted, even when he’s the one posting them.
Just so’s you know.
To all the folks who come here searching for "I Always Feel Like Somebody’s Watching Me":
1) You have a lot of company—I get at least three such hits a week.
2) I feel like that too. Maybe because they are. Oh, yeah, Department of Justice, that's right—I'm talkin' to you. Thought I hadn’t noticed you, didn’t you? Well, I did.
But that's okay. There's room for all (well...most) here under the big top. It's quite all right, bridgekeeper. I am not afraid.
[For the most part.]
So, undoubtedly like many of you—the rest of you, of course, will have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about, but then I’m used to that—I’ve been following the online forest fire that has resulted from The Washington Post hiring someone named Ben Domenech to be a blogger for their online edition. [Yes, I know I switched metaphors, but the train wreck one seemed a better title whilst I just plain like the forest fire one better.]
Now, I’d never heard of this guy before, although I’d certainly known of RedState, the site he founded. But there’s a ton of controversy over this hiring, and rightly so, in my view.
The short version is that The Washington Post has claimed that they didn’t hire him based on his political beliefs on the one hand, but then trumpeted his conservative bent as a selling point on the other, which does seem a bit contradictory. They have not said they have any plans to hire a blogger from the left to balance things out, insisting that his hiring happened in a vacuum and not to try to alleviate charges that they’re too liberal, and that he’s the very best person they could find for the job.
And that’s where things get really interesting. For one thing, this guy is only 24 years old, a child of considerable privilege, and was the youngest political appointee of George W. Bush—not entirely coincidentally, his father had also been a political appointee of GWB’s—after dropping out of the esteemed William & Mary after a couple years. He’s also been the speechwriter for Senator John Cornyn of Texas and the editor of Michelle Malkin (who initially defended Domenech but is now admitting that things look dire for him, although she can’t help accusing his critics on the left—"moonbats," in her oh so elevated discourse—for his downfall).
Some of the easy snarking, as the magnificent Top Management has pointed out, comes because he was homeschooled. I really woulda thought the fact that he got into one of the finest colleges in the world would have on its face destroyed the argument that his homeschooling was a drawback educationally, but whatever.
Some feel that calling Coretta Scott King a communist on the day after her funeral and criticizing the president for even bothering to attend was in such excessively poor taste that it alone should have precluded his being hired (Domenech did not, in fact, apologize for the slur, as some have alleged). Others point to the time he wrote that some Supreme Court justices were worse than the Ku Klux Klan as an example of his lack of a proper professional temperament.
But those are judgement calls, no pun intended. Now, however, new charges are popping up, and they’re much, much harder to spin away as simple political posturing.
A preponderance of evidence make it quite clear that young Ben has had a habit of plagiarizing for quite some time, from back his college days right up to the present. He ripped off both Rolling Stone magazine and a P.J. O’Rourke book for his college paper—how did he expect to get away with that, in the first place, and exactly how the hell did he get away with it?—and he ripped off Salon and the Washington Post in more recent years. His plagiarizing is so blatant it’s really pretty shocking. You can go here for examples. Amazingly, some of his defenders are now attacking The Washington Post for not doing enough due diligence before hiring him. Which may indeed be true, but it’s an odd way to defend Domenech’s own behavior.
But much as I’ve been interested in this whole conflagration, it’s not what spurred me to write. Not even the truly stunning—even by the standards of the internets—attempts to defend Domenech by smearing his critics or justify it by saying the other side does it too could get me to enter the fray, never mind that both sides have been known to use similar tactics whilst accusing the other side of indefensible behavior.
Nor was I goaded into adding my worthless two cents by the revelation that Mister Domenech apparently claims he’s a fundamentalist Christian, something which would certainly seem to be very much at odds with what are clear examples of his stealing and lying.
And not even when various conservatives finally publicly weighed in and said that in the interest of honesty and integrity ol' Ben must either quit or be fired was I motivated to add to the hubbub.
No, what finally got me to pick up my cyberpen was this:
Jakob Dylan & co. follow-up 1996's Bringing Down the Horse, one of the greatest rock releases of the decade, with a beautifully crafted and graceful album, a return to the introspective variety of American rock that's been sorely lacking in recent years.
Some are alleging that that quote was also plagiarized, although the facts in this exact example are not currently clear: it could be that he wrote it and simply posted it in two different places, one without attribution. Such an act might be a bit dubious ethically in terms of standard journalism, but in the brave new world of blogging, such thangs haven’t been graven in stone yet.
But for the purposes of this piece, I don’t really care whether he wrote it or stole it. What amazes me is that anyone would take a person who would say that seriously, whether the idea was actually his in the first place or not.
Sweet Jesu. A Wallflowers anything as one of the greatest anythings of any decade? Good Lord a-mighty. "A return to the introspective variety of American rock that’s been sorely lacking in recent years"? Was he on crack? What the hell were Nirvana and Pearl Jam but introspective [and noisy]? The only thing they were more than than introspective [and noisy] was immensely popular. Not to mention Bruce Springsteen, Mister Introspective himself, had released four albums in the previous four years.
What a pinhead thing to have written. As one commentator on a right wing site which initially defended him said, "The problem isn’t that he’s red, it’s that he’s green."
Maybe, although what, then, does that say about the Bush administration, which hired him years earlier? If someone’s still this big a bonehead at age 24, I don’t hold out a whole lotta hope. [But then maybe I’m just conveniently forgetting how stupid I was at 24. Or 34. Or…]
UPDATE: So I wrote the preceding yesterday afternoon and had planned on posting it early this morning. But then the house of cards came tumbling down. First Domenech resigned, posting an explanation that none of it was his fault, but was rather all the fault of editors who’d added all this cribbed material without his knowledge, much less permission, and that no one had given him a chance to explain. He emphasized again and again that he’d been a teenager when this plagiarism of which he'd known naught had occurred and he was ever so much older and more mature and wiser now.
A few hours later Domenech posted again, this time taking full responsibility for his actions.
That first response of his was perhaps the most astounding part of the entire thing, especially with the benefit of hindsight. He said right out that his editors had added the plagiarized material, something his later apology would seem to clearly refute. So, in addition to theft (stealing another’s work) and lying (claiming it as your own), he compounds the lie, making it exponentially worse by adding libel to the mix (falsely claiming another was responsible for the theft). Furthermore, there was a plethora of examples from his post-college years, adding to his already impressive catalog of lies.
But here’s where my head exploded. The first half-dozen posts on RedState after his final apology, wherein he took responsibility? They were incredibly laudatory, saying how brave he was for accepting responsibility, how they understand how difficult it must have been and that of course all is forgiven.
You may think I’m kidding or exaggerating. I’m not.
Look, it’s very nice that someone stands by a friend in his time of need. It truly is. But this guy sank about as low as it’s possible for a writer to go. Born with the silver spoon in his mouth and the world handed to him on a platter, he then stole and cheated and lied, all the while publishing vile, vile accusations about others.
And make no mistake: this wasn’t some victimless crime. In addition to stealing from other writers, his inexcusable behavior cast an extremely negative light on all bloggers, as well as homeschoolers and conservatives. Moreover, he got coveted jobs, including a major spot at one of the three most prestigious newspapers in the country, at least in part because of his writing ability—writing ability that, we know now for a fact, was not actually his. So he cheated some other, more qualified—and more ethical—but less politically-connected writers out of those lucrative positions.
And then to blame his theft on other innocent individuals? I wrote the first half of this piece at least slightly tongue-in-cheek, at least in part because it was such a train wreck and that, horrified as I was to see a promising career apparently flaming out so spectacularly (and I was), this guy is a good friend of some distant acquaintances of Top Management and so I hung back a bit out of respect for the pain I had no doubt they were feeling (another injury he caused).
But his behavior over the rest of the day went from bad to horrific, before he finally redeemed himself by accepting responsibility for his own actions. And while it’s bizarre to me that we should have to praise someone for that, this administration for whom young Domenech has had such praise (and worked) in the past has made accountability such a rare (or, in their case, actually unknown) occurrence that I suppose we should indeed encourage it on those few occasions when it should happen to make an appearance.
But those folks standing behind him at RedState: your loyalty is admirable and your sense of charity a sign of hope, even if both are misplaced.
Here’s my question for you: your friend caused actual material harm to others through his thoughtless, unethical and possibly illegal behavior. You accept his apology immediately and unreseveredly and welcome him back with open arms, saying all is forgiven.
Were you that understanding when President Bill Clinton lied in order to protect the feelings of his wife and child and the later apologized for his reprehensible actions? Or does this Christian forgiveness of yours only extend to people with whom you agree politically?
Okay. So I spent a fair amount of space here on Left of the Dial attacking the hypocrisy of the religious right, pointing out that they’re certainly to the right (which is not necessarily the same as being right, of course) but that they fall way the hell down on that there religious part.
It’s only fair, therefore, that when a truly ridiculous meme begins ricocheting around most of my favorite blogs on the left, I then take them to task for fuzzy thinking. Because I hate few things as much as I hate the ol’ double-standard—in fact, I think, in all seriousness, it’s one of the main causes behind the hideous state our nation finds itself in today. Folks on one side of the aisle scream about something the folks on the other side of the aisle are doing but then when they get a chance to do it themselves, well, hey, suddenly it’s just fine and dandy.
So here’s what happened. firedoglake, I believe, started by posting this hypothetical scenario:
I brought up one of my favorite forced birth conundrums the other day, guaranteed to make wingnut "life begins at conception" heads explode. If a fire breaks out in a fertility clinic and you can only save a petri dish with five blastulae or a two-year old child, which do you save?
I suspect most us, being sane, would either grab the child or, if we had time, a free hand and were thinking clearly—I mean, given that the joint’s on fire, a bit of panic doesn’t seem unlikely—we’d grab both. I mean, jeez, it’s a petri dish. It weighs, what, half a pound? Doesn’t seem to me like there’s really much of a dilemma here.
But to get back to the point she was trying to make, if for some unexplained and pretty much inexplicable reason you could only choose one, what or who would you choose? And the obvious answer is the two-year-old.
A-ha! she and much of the rest of the leftwing blogosphere then screamed. See? There is a difference! You don’t really and truly believe that life begins at conception!
Then, if I’ve got this sequence of events right, a blogger named Mike Stark called in to a local conservative talk radio show host named Andrew Wilkow. He posed the question to Wilkow and then, according to reports from blogs, Wilkow went nuts. The phrase "his head exploded" is frequently used.
Apparently, Stark then emailed Wilkow to let him know how he’d been set up. And Wilkow responded with a relatively civil response, all things considered, albeit one that showed a notable lack of basic grammar and spelling competence.
Now, I assume there’s a recording of the "head blowing up" available somewhere online, although I haven’t heard it. My experience with these sorts of things is that if someone says a host on CNN, say, went "absolutely stark raving insane," that it turns out that, yes, the host got really, really upset. Absolutely stark raving insane? Well…probably not; a bit of hyperbole tends to enter into these things. So do I suspect Wilkow got really, really upset? I do. Did his "head blow up"? I dunno. Maybe. But that’s not the point.
The point is this: you’re in a hospital visiting your 90-year-old grandmother. She’s been in a coma for five weeks and the doctors aren’t sure she’ll ever pull out of it. A fire suddenly breaks out. Who are you going to save, your grandmother in the coma or your two-year-old daughter who’s there with you?
Pretty freakin’ obvious, isn’t it?
Here’s another: you’re in a toy store. Suddenly a fire breaks out. Who are you going to save, your two-year-old son or the, let's say, little two-year-old Iraqi kid that was in that same aisle with you?
What?! You’d save your son rather than the Iraqi? What are you, a racist?
What?! You’d save the Iraqi rather than your own flesh-and-blood? What kind of inhuman monster are you?
You get my point.
Look, I actually tend to like hypotheticals: at their best, they can inspire some soul-searching and provoke some rigorous intellectual debate. But at their worst, they’re just silly little traps designed to put an opponent in an unwinnable position and then use that as a basis to show your own innate moral superiority. I’m a huge fan of snark. But when talking about a topic as important as we all agree this one is, snarkiness does nothing but turn up the heat without the benefit of any extra illumination. It’s counter-productive. It makes you feel good temporarily but does nothing to actually move towards any kind of a solution at all.
But that’s not even this kind of hypothetical. Because it doesn’t matter how many talk show hosts can’t answer this particular hypothetical when put on the spot (something talk show hosts themselves love to do to others, of course, and I’ve got no sympathy for this yutz). Just a few moments spent analyzing this particular one shows it’s paper-thin and simply silly. These kinds of hypotheticals masquerade as a difficult moral conundrum when it reality it’s no conundrum at all.
Does life begin at conception? Yes. Is all life sacred? Yes. Does that mean that a zygote can feel terror? Obviously not, nor can a 90-year-old in a coma (as far as I know, of course—never having been a 90-year-old in a coma, I can’t actually swear to that; for that matter, it's been a mighty long time since I was a zygote). Is killing someone wrong? Generally. If that person is about to murder another person—say, your mother—all the major monotheistic religions say it’s acceptable to then kill the would-be assassin. Does that mean that person’s life wasn’t sacred? No.
These things are obvious and well-known and are being discarded by many of my favorite blogs simply because they see a chance to score a few points against the other side. And that’s exactly what they complain so often about the other side doing. And yet here they are doing it themselves.
Y'all are better than that, remember? So act like it.
So Top Management suddenly said to me today, "Hey! Happy Anniversary!"
Which are not words any hubband wants to hear out of the blue.
After watching me frantically wracking my brains for any hint of what I missed this time, she finally took pity on me (this time) and laughed. "It was one year ago today that you first posted on Left of the Dial."
Do you have to buy a blog a present? I’ve certainly put this one through enough that it's not entirely unwarranted.
So off and on today I’ve been wondering what to say on this momentous occasion. Inspiration was in hibernation but then as anyone who reads Left of the Dial on a regular basis knows, that’s not unusual.
Still, it was kinda neat to think back on the past year. Twelve months ago, I’d never have dreamt I’d be posting some of the stuff I’ve written this year. I mean, who the hell in their right mind posts about religion, politics, abortion? Clearly I’m not in my right mind. At least I never got around to finishing that piece on animal nookie I was working on.
So I was mulling some of this over this afternoon, thinking maybe I’d just skip the entire thing—I’m not big on anniversaries unless there’s something in it for me or, more important, unless I'm facing imminent death if I don’t make a huge to-do about it.
And then the washing machine broke.
For the second time in eight months.
So now I’m feeling grim. The perfect Left of the Dial mood.
And so in that spirit, I present to you a far more eloquent and inspired voice: Johnny Rotten.
Sex Pistols spit on Hall of Fame honor
By Chris Morris
The Sex Pistols have opted out on appearing at their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
The groundbreaking English punk rock group officially declined the honor -- to be handed out March 13 at a dinner and performance at the Waldorf Astoria in New York -- in a crudely scrawled, mispunctuated handwritten message posted on the band's Web site Friday.
" Next to the SEX PISTOLS rock and roll and that hall of fame is a piss stain," the statement read. "Your museum. Urine in wine. Were (sic) not coming. Were (sic) not your monkey and so what?"
The statement slammed Hall of Fame voters as "music industry people," and excoriated the high price of attending the exclusive event -- $25,000 for a table, "or $15,000 to squeak up in the gallery."
It concluded, "Your (sic) not paying attention. Outside the shit-stem is a real SEX PISTOL."
Other 2006 inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame include Black Sabbath, Blondie, Miles Davis, Lynyrd Skynyrd and industry executives Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss.
Susan Evans, executive director of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation, said of the band's announcement, "They're being the outrageous punksters that they are, and that's rock 'n' roll."
As has been noted elsewhere, Miles Davis and most of Lynyrd Skynyrd are also not expected to attend.
I do wonder, however, if the "so what?" question is a Miles reference. Wouldn't entirely surprise me, the cheeky buggers. Solidarity?
I’ve been skeptical of the Hall o’ Fame myself since the beginning, but willing to give it the benefit of the doubt because some great performances and speeches were given and because I’ve assumed that some of the acts have truly benefited from the exposure, even if only temporarily.
But $25k? Yeah, that’s pretty insane. That’s exactly why the Sex Pistols were needed in the first place. And why we could sure use their equivalent today.
In the meantime, I’ll sit back, listen to Never Mind the Bollocks and A Tribute to Jack Johnson and Street Survivors. And wait for the repairman to show up.
Thanks for comin’ along for the ride.
Well, now, isn’t this weird? I mentioned some Words of the Day which’d been highlighted in Left of the Dial over the decades, one of which was the fine if somewhat ubiquitous (can something be only somewhat ubiquitous?) word "meme."
At which point someone emailed me, asking about "meme." Claimed to be a regular Left of the Dialer (Left of the Dialian?) and yet to have missed the "meme" memo.
So I checked. And it seems that I wrote about "meme" back in mid-November but never actually posted it. How odd. But now you can probably understand why my phone kept getting turned off back when I lived in NYC—I just kept forgetting to pay the bill. What the hell, there was no one I felt like talking to anyway.
Therefore, with little further ado, I present for the first time a repeat of a golden oldie making its long-delayed debut:
I give you…meme.
What is with the word "meme" these days? I can’t swing a dead cat without hitting it—or at least someone using it. Okay, so I don’t actually swing dead cats. That much. Any more. But if I did, boy…
Jeez. Now I lost my train of thought. And I’m hungry.
Ah, yes, of course. Meme. Knew if I just waited a few moments it’d come back. It’s funny that way. Read a blog, read the word. It (almost) never fails. Meme is the new black. And soon that concept shall be the new meme. It’s floating out there, in the ether. Almost like a…well, like a meme.
If you’re one of those rare but highly-cultivated individdles who reads few blogs, perusing only Left of the Dial with your morning cuppa, trying desperately to overlook the rambling and asides and rambling asides, you may not have run across the word meme. Allow me, then, to introduce you. Because, after all, this is a blog. And therefore I must use the word "meme."
meme (me¯m) noun
A unit of cultural information, such as a cultural practice or idea, that is transmitted verbally or by repeated action from one mind to another.
[Shortening (modeled on GENE) of mimeme, from Greek mime¯ma, something imitated, from mimeisthai, to imitate. See mimesis.]
An idea, thought or piece of information that is passed from generation to generation through imitation and behavioral replication. Coined by Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book "The Selfish Gene," memes and memetics are the cultural counterpart to the biological study of genes and genetics. Using the evolution analogy, Dawkins observed that human cultures evolve via "contagious" communications in a manner similar to the gene pool of populations over time.
It is, incidentally, pronounced "meem." And, yes, that does actually count for quite a bit in its favor.
Pretty groovy—the magnificence that is Left of the Dial, boiled down to one handy-dandy rectangle.
Or maybe that's depressing. I can just post one of these puppies every so often and y'all can skp the hard work of actually reading LotD a regular basis. Just glance at the word cloud and you get the gist.
No, I was right the first time; it's pretty groovy.
Oh, and here's the link, in case you too wish to reduce your life's work to a little box.
I’m all for globalism, free trade and all that good stuff that makes us dance around and sing "it’s a small world after all."
Except when I’m not. For instance, when Microsoft, one of the largest corporations in the world, begins censoring bloggers who use their blog service. What causes them to censor someone? In this case, the blogger was writing negative things about China.
Now, this Zhao Jing guy might have a reason to write some negative stuff about China. After all, he lives in China. And by blogging about it, he’s risking his own life.
So I’d be very very unhappy indeed if China were to go after him. But given that they’re a brutally repressive, authoritarian government, I guess I couldn’t be too surprised.
But Microsoft? Microflippinsoft? Owned by Time Magazine’s Co-Person of the Year Bill Gates? That Microsoft? From Seattle? The land of grunge, coffee, Green Arrow, constant rain and the Space Needle? That Microsoft? Not that Microsoft.
Yes, that Microsoft.
How disappointing. How infuriating. And most of all, how scary.
Outspoken Chinese blogger censored by Microsoft
Microsoft’s MSN Spaces continues to censor its Chinese language blogs, and has become more aggressive and thorough at censorship since I first checked out MSN’s censorship system last summer. On New Years Eve, MSN Spaces took down the popular blog written by Zhao Jing, aka Michael Anti. Now all you get when you attempt to visit his blog [Link] is [an] error message...
Note, his blog was TAKEN DOWN by MSN people. Not blocked by the Chinese government.
This is not the first time an American company has bent over for the Chinese government, in some cases breaking American laws in order to do so. And I’m sure it won’t be the last. But I’ve damn sure given my money for the last time to one who does.
...and your point is?
Bloggers are, along with Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida, the new enemies of decency, humanity and civility. We're powerful, angry, spoiled, undisciplined, narcissistic, obsessive-compulsive, creepy squatters. We're savage children who babble, buzz and blurt, and the mission of our bloodthirsty masses is to hunt and kill like murderous barbarians. We are an ego-gratifying rabble that abuses power by bringing down others with snark, sass and destruction to enhance ourselves. We must be silenced for civilization's sake.
--Kathleen Parker via The Daily Kos
Today is the twentieth anniversary of the death of D. Boon. A lot of you Left of the Dial readers won’t know who D. Boon is, and that may be because he died twenty years ago tonight, before he and his band, The Minutemen, had a chance to have an effect on the mainstream. And maybe they never would have—it’s likely they were simply too iconoclastic to have ever cracked the charts or the zeitgeist: hell, they were too iconoclastic for the world o’ punk. But The Minutemen had a huge effect on their contemporaries and those who came after, including bands like Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr., Nirvana and Pearl Jam. They weren’t the first to espouse the DIY motto but they may have embodied it most fully.
I mention this because apparently the word "blog" has now overtaken, incredible as it may seem, the word "sex" on Google. In fact, Googling "blog" will return twice as many hits as Googling "sex." [And, by the way, the phrase "Googling sex" sounds really filthy, dunnit?] This seems huge to me but just why I cannot say at this point. In fact, I’m not at all sure it’s a good sign. It could actually signal the doom of the human race if taken to its illogical conclusion.
It does mean is that it’s increasingly unnecessary to explain to someone what a blog is. Which is good. Because the only thing I found more embarrassing about having a blog initially was then having to explain to someone what a blog is. It may be just as self-indulgent as ever—more so, perhaps, as they grow and everyone and his step-sister’s barber has one—but at least it’s not a foreign concept. Apparently, the number of blogs is roughly doubling every few months at this point. Soon there’ll be more blogs than people to read them. Actually, that point may have already been reached. I’m just hopeful that someone blogs will overtake cockroaches and there’ll be a battle to the death and Left of the Dial will be the ultimate victor. Okay, I’m not really hopeful about that. Just wishful thinking. A boy can dream, can’t he?
Anyhoo, it seems to me that the DIY ethos applies to the blogosphere. Which is not to suggest that my work is particularly akin to D. Boon’s in any way. But it does make me wish that he were still around. I think he might have been a hell of a blogger, had he so chosen. And I think he might have. I know he would have had interesting things to say about the state of our world. I’m sorry I’ll never know what they would have been.
I know I’ve been delinquent. I’ve been neglecting the blog. What can I say? I’m a bad, bad boy.
At first the blog was a delightful way to rev up, get myself in the writing frame o’ mind. But I’ve been working on a project which has been sapping all my creative energies, or what passes for them. And not in a bad way—the project is often the last thing I think of at night and the first thing in the morning. And unlike every term paper I ever had in high school or college and which was invariably late, this fact doesn’t cause me agita.
But it does mean that the half-dozen blog pieces I’ve got half-finished are just languishing. It includes my mumblings on Suzanne Vega, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Sergei Rachmaninov, U2, role models, New Yorkers, southerners and Perfection in Art.
And I’ll get to them, I promise (or perhaps threaten, depending upon your point of view). In the meantime, just be happy that I’m enjoying work more than I have in years. Which isn’t to say that I wasn’t enjoying it before, mind ye: when you’ve got a job as cool as mine, even the bad days are generally pretty good. So that just makes these days that much better. Don’t worry, though, I’m still a glass-half-empty kinda guy: I’m sure it’ll go back to sucking again sooner than I’d like. :)
So several people have emailed me, asking why I haven’t posted anything in some time. First of all, it’s incredibly nice to know someone cares or at least takes the time to pretend to do so. Second of all, everyone’s a critic. I’m an artist, man. Get off my back.
Actually, it’s because Top Management’s been working double and triple shifts on her latest novel (working title: Life with the Decomposing Man), so I’ve been taking care of the kids and not the computer. The kids don’t seem overjoyed by the switch but The Boy, at least, hasn’t actually complained, at least in words (although he has strongly implied that I'm somewhat lacking in several, shall we say, maternal qualities). The computer, however, has been quietly sobbing whenever I sneak up on it unawares. Macs. They’re so sensitive.
Anyhoo. Decomposition update: foot still asleep but LESS of it is, so I’ll take that as a good sign. Ears still ringing, but now I’m wondering if they’ve been ringing for years and I just never noticed before. That’d be like me. Turns out I’m married with four kids. Who knew? That explains all those other people in my house.
As for the photograph of my august self which graces this here blog thingie, it was taken by the late Mike Parobeck, one of the finest and most talented people I’ve ever known. If a really, really good history of the modern comic book industry’s ever written, Mike’ll finally get his props. And, no, not just because of that shot of me. But considering he’d never met me when he drew it, it’s scary how good it is, no?
Good question. The first time I read a blog I thought it was both cool and perplexing--why would someone want to put themselves out there like that and, even more puzzling, how on earth did the find the time to do so?
I haven’t answered the time question yet, but I’ve figured out the first one. It turns out there are an awful lot of blogs that are really fascinating--most of the great ones I’ve read have been politically-oriented, but there are some outstanding music ones as well. And then there are some that are pretty much just the diary of the blogger’s life. Which in most cases is every bit as self-absorbed and egotistical as you’d expect.
On the other hand, some of them aren’t; instead, they’re well-written, fascinating glimpses into the life and times of another human being. Which is to say, they’re a piece of good writing since, really, isn’t that what most good writing is?
Ah, so what makes me feel like I have anything worthwhile to say? Well, I’m human, and I think most humans feel that have something worthwhile to say, otherwise they’d never express an opinion.
Possibly more to the point, it occurred to me that a lot of the things I’ve written about or am planning to write about is stuff that I’ve thought about a lot. And while I plan on continuing to inflict my soapbox sessions on Top Management, I realized I’d like to have a record of some sort of some of this stuff. I suspect it’ll help me work my way through my own opinions, refining them, tweaking them and maybe even completely and totally reversing them. That’s okay—I once thought Barry Manilow was a pop god. Now I’m older and wiser and realize he’s a demi-god at best.
Besides, Top Management bought me this blog for Valentine’s Day and it’d be rude to refuse a present.