Archive for September, 2009
Ten Must-Own Albums from the 2000s (#5 – #1)
5. Elliot Smith – From a Basement on the Hill (2004)
Elliot Smith is one of my favorite songwriters. His songs, from narratives about strung out ex girlfriends to poorly hidden political rhetoric, capture the tone of my adolescence and college years with perfect pitch. Often accompanying himself on acoustic guitar only (before later in life turning to larger studio productions) Smith rose above the crowd of acoustic noodlers to become a sort of big brother to an entire generation. When Elliot warned us about the dangers of cocaine and heroin, many of us listened.
Unfortunately, Elliot died in October 2003. This album was released posthumously in October of 2004, and is considered by many of his fans to be the most personal and honest set of recordings Elliot ever made. Still other Smith fans reject the album as having been thrown together for profit after the singer’s death. It is this strange and varied response to Smith’s last album that I find interesting — not just the rumors that his girlfriend murdered him (the autopsy results show his stab wounds were “not necessarily self inflicted”) or the buzz about there being tons of “unreleased” recordings.
Moving away from Smith’s mostly spare style, From a Basement finds Smith playing John Lennon in the studio — singing over a long poem recited by a friend of his, bringing in dozens of session musicians, clanging guitars and jumbly arrangements. This album is usually not considered Smith’s best (by critics or fans), but I select it for this list as an homage to one of my generation’s great songwriters, and because it was released nearly a year to the day after his controversial suicide.
Buy this album because: You probably didn’t buy it when it came out, and you should have.
4. TV on the Radio – Return to Cookie Mtn. (2006)
Return to Cookie Mountain is probably the biggest critical darling on this list. In 2006, every music critic and venue for writing about music went on and on about TV on the Radio’s greatness. Pitchfork Media, not known for their generosity, considers this album one of the best albums of that year, rating it a 9.1 out of 10. Spin magazine declared Cookie Mountain the “album of the year” well before the year was up. That nerdy guy you know who is always listening to his .mp3 player? Yeah, he knows about this album.
But that doesn’t mean you should be wary. TV on the Radio make some of the darkest and most beautiful pop music you may have never heard. This is a band more than willing to sample Lou Reeds’ seminal (and terrible) Metal Machine Music alongside vocal cuts by David Bowie and guest appearances by their indie rock pals. They may be a bit experimental, but never at the expense of the sound of the music.
And that sound is unique, something you can’t get from other big name acts. From the simple but powerful lyrics (listen to the song “Province” off this album for proof of their lyrical prowess) to the groovy backbeat and fuzzy guitars, this is music as it was meant to be made in the 2000s. Mysterious but loveable.
Buy this album because: Look, if David Bowie says they’re good, you can at least give them a listen.
3. Animal Collective — Feels (2005) and Gorillaz — self-titled (2001)
This may seem like a strange pairing at first — Baltimore’s Animal Collective (less a band than a gathering of individual talents) and the Gorillaz (an animated coverup for a collaborative band from around the world). I selected these two albums to represent two popular and common themes in music over the past decade — collaboration and false identities.
The members of Animal Collective resisted “naming” their band, preferring instead to perform in random combinations as the gig or their mood provided. Before deciding to perform under the name Animal Collective, they were known by their individual names — Panda Bear, Avey Tare, Geologist, Deakin, Doctess, and Eyvind Kang.
Their freak folk rock sound is easiest to hear on their 2005 release Feels, which depended on a badly tuned set of guitars for its unique sound. The track “Grass” became a big hit on college radio, and Animal Collective used the success of Feels to launch their first major international tour. Their most recent release, Merriweather Post Pavilion earned them even greater success, already popping up on some pre emptive “Album of the Year” lists.
Gorillaz came out of nowhere back in 2001. The hit single from the album, “Clint Eastwood”, is instantly recognizable, with its addictive beat, unique rapping (provided by the always bizarre rapper Del), and that “squishy”, bouncy, and highly danceable music. Yes, this album flew just under most people’s radar (peaking at #14 in the US though performing better overseas) but for those that were listening, Gorillaz were a big hit. Much like the example of Animal Collective, the members of Gorillaz hid their public identity behind animated characters designed specifically for the band. There were four fictional members of the group, voiced by the people “behind the curtain” — Del, Damon Albarn, Miho Hatori, and a handful of their friends.
There were plenty of acts performing behind masks, hiding their identities, and collaborating like crazy over the past decade. The reason collaboration is important in the 2000s? We’ve seen the collapse of the traditional music industry. Bands aren’t getting paid the way they used to. Venues for concerts are getting smaller. Radio is becoming impossible to break into without truckloads of payola — when bands collaborate, they get the opportunity to play with other musicians and in front of new audiences.
Buy these albums because: You have to have something weird from this decade you can play for your kids
2. Beyonce – Dangerously in Love (2003)
From simple beginnings (born in Houston in 1981), Beyonce Knowles became one of the most recognizable and talked about figures in pop music.
It doesn’t get much bigger than Beyonce in modern day R&B. She was first popular due to her role in the super group Destiny’s Child. After that group split up, Beyonce took off on her own (multi-platinum) career in 2001. Between record sales that were off the charts, multiple Grammy awards, a few big movie roles, and a well publicized romance with rapper/CEO Jay-Z, Beyonce became one of the biggest stars of the 2000s. She’s a sure thing at every entertainment event, from the Grammys to the Super Bowl.
Okay, I have to admit it. I’m not a fan. I don’t own this album and I probably never will. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t an important piece of music from this decade. The single “Crazy in Love” is ubiquitous — enter the mall and you WILL hear this song. Millions of fans know all the words to her songs, even the more obscure stuff that doesn’t feature Jay-Z, and it is likely that your mama and your grandma know who Beyonce is.
Buy this album because: Beyonce is the rags to riches story of the new millenium.
1. R Kelly – Trapped in the Closet (2005 – current)
Trapped in the Closet isn’t technically an album. Also, as it is a constant work in progress, it may be difficult to “own” the whole thing.
It is called a “hip hop opera”. The story, told so far in 23 parts, is related in its entirety by R Kelly, who sings all of the different roles, some in hilarious character voices. The story is too complex to relate here — suffice to say it concerns the very complex goings on in a small town.
Trapped in the Closet is epic, it lacks any sense of irony, and you get the feeling watching it that R Kelly really means what he is expressing. He’s trying to play storyteller, and the story he tells is almost always unintentionally hilarious.
It is also the second most popular thing R Kelly ever did on video. (Zing!)
I said before that this list is not in any particular order, but I have to make an exception here. For being bizarre without excuses, for R Kelly’s willingness to cling to motifs without breaking a sweat, for the hilarious video and the epic scale of the work, Trapped in the Closet is probably the most brilliant piece of music recorded in the past twenty years or more.
Buy this album because: When you need a laugh (or a good story) there’s simply nothing better.
Ten Must-Own Albums from the 2000s (#10 – #6)
I know this list is gonna generate some controversy. Hell, I’m counting on that.
And considering the 2000s aren’t quite over yet (we have another 16 months or so to go) I do not consider this list complete. Having said that, I feel it would be difficult for an album released in the next year and a half or so to top any of the albums on this list.
Have a suggestion? Your favorite album get passed over? Just want to bend my ear for including both pop and indie music? Add your comment below. If I get enough solid reponses I would be totally willing to alter the list.
Without further ado — and in no particular order — here are the top ten albums released in the 2000s that you just have to own.
10. Modest Mouse – The Moon and Antarctica (2000)
I picked this album because it tells a story common to fans of contemporary indie rock — cult favorite band signs to major label and eveyone worries about how the album will turn out.
Epic Records signed Modest Mouse after the fan buzz got too loud to ignore. We Modest Mouse fans worried if Epic would require the Mouse to play radio friendly rock without the charm and awe of their standard fare. Modest Mouse was known for odd arrangements, solid lyrics, and a sound nearly defined by their willingsness to vamp on a particular theme for what seemed like hours on end.
Instead of letting us down, Modest Mouse spent their major label money recording what is perhaps the most haunting and intricate of their albums to date. Classic tracks from this album, like “Dark Center of the Universe”, show off the best of Modest Mouse’s heady past while introducing new elements, such as more sophisticated and personal lyrics.
Other tracks (I’m looking at you “The Cold Part”) found Modest Mouse playing around with atmospheric sounds. You could almost hear the growing pains if you turned the speakers up to 11.
Yes, Modest Mouse lost some fans after this album dropped. And yes, they gained about twenty times as many as they lost. Cut to 2004, when Modest Mouse enjoyed platinum success and tons of airplay. Was Moon the first step towards mainstream success? We could debate that for hours.
Buy this album because: Good major label released by indie bands are rare.
9. OutKast – Stankonia (2000)
It is fall of 2000. Having just moved in with a new roommate, I look for ways in which we can bond. He’s a wet behind the ears rich boy with a penchant for hardcore punk and (above all) System of a Down. Instead of dwelling on our problems, I pop in the new OutKast album I picked up.
The rest is history. The roommate and I are still great friends, and he hasn’t played a System of a Down album since. I’d like to think I changed his life that day, but let’s be honest — OutKast deserves that honor.
Stankonia is good, okay? I don’t care if you don’t like rap, I don’t care if you have something against Big Boi and Andre 3000, I don’t care if you’re an Icelander, a Brit, or a Lilliputian. This album produced two major hits for the burgeoning rap duo out of Atlanta — “Bombs Over Baghdad”, and “Ms. Jackson” — while earning them critical praise at a level unknown before in the world of rap.
Stankonia is an expressive, intricate, sometimes loud and sometimes gentle composition that highlights the best of OutKast’s talent. Featuring some of the best wordplay in rap history alongside music so hot it can still be heard leaking out of car windows 9 years later, this was my favorite album for years after its release.
Buy this album because: Rap is relevant, and this is the War and Peace of rap.
8. New Pornographers – Mass Romantic (2000-2001)
Boy oh boy am I going to hear a lot of nonsense about this pick. First of all, look at that date up there. How could an album be released across two years?
This album tells another of the great stories of music in the 2000s — how promotion and PR affects a band’s success. While Mass Romantic technically came out in October of 2000, the record label did literally NOTHING to promote it until 2001. This was simply a crime — the New Pornographers are making some of the best pop music in recent memory, and they’re doing it with style dripping out of their ears.
Many people came to the New Pornographers through the fame of Neko Case, who sings on most of the tracks. Neko is a star in her own right, and it is not uncommon to hear NP fans complain when she is absent from the lineup.
Mass Romantic is proof that good pop music is not dead. We don’t have to mourn the end of Brian Wilson or the Beatles. The New Pornographers play highly energetic pop music — and these guys are talented musicians. I’ll say it — Mass Romantic is the catchiest collection of tunes to come out since the last great era of Pop, the 1960s.
Carl Newman, who records solo as A.C. Newman, arranges these seemingly simple songs with the delicate touch of a jeweler. Neko Case adds her heartbreaking voice. Dan Bejar’s lyrics are more than just a little off kilter — this is the kind of songwriting that gets under your skin and takes up residence in your ear.
Buy this album because: The title track will intrigue, alarm, and excite you.
7. Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002)
This album from one time indie mainstay Wilco was not popular across the board. In fact, if rock critics read my list, they’d be quite likely to point this selection out as “way off”.
Was YHF a brilliant and bold new direction for a band once considered alt-country? Was it a forced and lazy piece of experimental garbage best left in the same pile as Metal Machine Music? If you ask me, YHF ‘s unique style not only spread the band to new groups of fans, but it also represented the next stap for a band who’d already made several.
Their first album, AM, was an alt-country masterpiece. It only took one more album for the band to change itself. The second album, Being There was a direct slap in the face of their alt-country fan base. Wilco’s been changing from the beginning. Get over it.
This is a small album, a “minimalist” album if you must — an album that Pitchfork describes as being “concerned with subtraction”. What frontman Jeff Tweady was doing on YHF is very clear — he’s taken his typical folk style and stripped it down to its most basic parts, then added flourishes whenever he felt like it.
Buy this album because: It represents a common meme among bands in the 2000s — experimentation outside of their genre. Plus, “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart” might get you laid.
6. The Books – The Lemon of Pink (2003)
The Books aren’t making pop music. Sure, sometimes their fractured sound collage can be catchy, and I’ll admit to getting parts of their tracks stuck in my head like a bad early Beatles song.
No, The Books aren’t making pop — they’re more concerned with the creation of sound from ideas. Whoa, I know, this is getting pretty heavy. And I don’t want to make it sound like this album is a noise experiment or something only music snobc can enjoy. That’s simply not true.
There are soundbites collaged and mixed in new ways used to create many of the “lyrics”. Much of the music coomes from similar sources — soundbites, sound effects, synthesized percussion, handclaps, it is all here. But you’ll want to hear it again and again.
The Books represent, much like Wilco’s YHF, the new direction that popular music was and is moving in the 2000s. Sound collage has been done before, but not popular enough to get heavy airplay at colleges across the country. And it isn’t all sound of technology — pretty bursts of fiddles, banjos, and other strings crop up more often than a 50s sitcom.
Buy this album because: It is a journey in the best sense of the word. Because it may be the most remarkable listening experience of the last 10 years.
Tommorrow, catch the second half of the top ten list. Here’s a spoiler — Animal Collective will make an appearance, along with R Kelly.
Who is the World’s Oldest Person?
The world recently lost the “oldest person” known to still be alive.
Gertrude Baines, who famously lived on a steady diet of delicious foods (bacon fried in fat, fried chicken and ice cream among other foods) and clean living, died today at a nursing home where she had been for the last few years. She was 115 when she died peacefully in her sleep.
Baines was quoted when she turned 115 last year that she “enjoyed life so much she wouldn’t mind living another 100 years”. Emma Camanag, head administrator at Western Convalescent Hospital where Baines died, made the announcement this morning.
An autopsy has been scheduled to determine the cause of death, though it was likely the result of a heart attack, according to her doctor of many years, Dr. Charles Witt.
Friends and acquaintances, including her doctor, said she was very mentally alert, and could often be seen smiling and humming. She seemed to enjoy her long life.
Baines was born in 1894 in Shellman, Ga. the daughter of a former slave. She claimed the title of “the world’s oldest living person” earlier this year when a 115-year-old woman, Maria de Jesus, died in Portugal this past January.
The oldest person in the world is now Kama Chinen, aged 114, who lives in Japan. This information is tracked by Dr. L. Stephen Coles of the Gerontology Research Group. Chinen was born May 10, 1895 in Japan. The oldest person who has ever lived was Jeanne-Louise Calment a native of France. She was 122 when she died Aug. 4, 1997, in Arles, France.
The one thing Baines regretted was outliving her family — her entire family. Baines’ only daughter died of typhoid some time ago.
Baines worked her entire life as a maid at Ohio State University’s dormitories until her retirement more than 30 years ago.
Baines has been described as a modest woman who liked to watch the “Jerry Springer Show” and eat fatty foods. She refused to use dentures and says she never drank or smoked a day in her life.
Baines celebrated her birthday at the nursing home this past April 6 with a letter from President Obama, whom Baines famously voted for because “he’s for the colored people”. She said she never thought she would live to see a black man become president.
How to Fend Off a Shark Attack
So you’re in Australia on your dream vacation. One minute you’re snorkeling with the family, wondering what you’ll eat for dinner, not thinking about work, maybe you’re even a little bit happy. Suddenly, below you, the distinct outline of a shark appears. Before the hair on the back of your neck has time to settle, three more sharks appear. This is not good.
If you know how to fend off a shark attack, you’ll be less likely to soil your wetsuit should you find yourself in this scenario.
The best way to escape a shark attack is to simply not be attacked in the first place. Sounds easy, right? There are a few ways to lessen your chance of a shark attack.
1. Travel in groups
Sharks are far more likely to attack an individual human than a group. One of us is pretty big, but not much bigger than their other prey animals. A group of us – that’s a different story. Remember that a shark only attacks when it feels it has an advantage. Being outnumbered reduces that advantage considerably.
2. Have an exit strategy
Know the quickest way out of the water at all times. Sometimes this will be as easy as jumping back onto the boat that is nearby – other times, you may have to wait a while to get back on land. But simply having the knowledge could save your skin.
3. Daytime is Ocean time
At dusk or in the evening, sharks have a serious sensory advantage. Your visual clues are almost nil, and their senses haven’t weakened at all. Also, most sharks that are likely to attack humans are most active when it is dark and especially in the twilight hours. If you’re going to try your hand at snorkeling, schedule your trip with plenty of daylight out.
4. Try Not to Look Like Prey
SCUBA divers floating on the surface resemble shark prey, and on top of that, they are less likely to see a shark approaching. Yes, it is good to stay near your escape method (i.e. the boat) but try not to look like a delicious shark meal.
Should all of these methods fail to keep you safe from an attack, there are some steps you can take when the shark is physically approaching you as if to attack.
The first thing to remember is to stay calm. Easy to say when you’re not nose to nose with a Great White, but if you keep a sense of calm about you, you’ll make better decisions. Keep your eye on the shark so you know where it is at all times. If there is something nearby that can act as a shield – a reef, a big rock, a sunken ship, anything – lean up against it. This gives you a smaller area to protect, and gives the shark less chance to attack. Then, be prepared to go on the offensive.
The tried and true method of striking a shark where it is most vulnerable is the method taught by most survival experts. Sharks gills and eyes are the areas most sensitive to pain. As a diver, you’re likely to have something in your possession you can use to attack the shark – a camera, your fist, maybe even a harpoon gun or other attack tool. Poking or stabbing the shark in its sensitive areas will annoy the shark and make him think twice about his advantages in this fight.
Before you go attacking any shark you see, remember that the shark has every right to be in its natural environment. Most sharks will show themselves to a diver out of curiosity, and simply move on to an easier target. There is no need to be overly aggressive around sharks.
There are products only recently discovered which contain “semiochemicals” or “chemical messengers” which are deployed in the event of a shark encounter in an attempt to trigger the shark to flee the scene. In testing, six shark species were completely repelled by the chemicals dropped into a huge amount of food. The idea behind the chemical is to trigger the shark’s alarm response which sends them packing in no time. There are also shark repellents based on magnets and electricity – unfortunately for the diver, none of these products are currently commercially available, but research is ongoing.
Your best bet in avoiding a shark attack is to follow the 4 guidelines above and avoid shark contact altogether. If you must come in contact with a shark, be prepared to fight back.
Top 10 Movies for Back to School
With school in most parts of the country up and running, I figure its time to gather a list of my favorite movies for “back to school” time. Yes, kids are supposed to be concentrating on their studies, finding dates for the big dance, and learning new ways to cut class and get away with it — but trust me, having a few good movies around will really help when your kids get bored.
Here are my favorite fifteen movies from my own childhood — movies that could distract me from a bad day or keep my friends and I entertained for a couple of hours during a sleepover.
Napoleon Dynamite (2004) —
We’ll start off with a silly movie. This cult classic features tons of nerdy characters just trying to get by during the toughest time of their lives — high school. Come for the silly dialogue and cheeky pop culture references, stay for the dance moves at the end that will have your kids in stitches.
Stand By Me (1986) —
Besides launching the careers of Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, and Jerry O’Connell (and featuring an amazing cameo by Kiefer Sutherland) this film is an important moment in the lives of those of us raised during the late 70s and 80s. This was one of the only movies that used a few dirty words and showed a dead body that my mother would ever allow me to see before the age of 12. I suppose what my mother valued in the movie was the overall lesson, something about the innocence of childhood, the upside of telling the truth, and the true bond formed between young friends. But don’t worry — your kids won’t be hit over the head with the lesson.
The Breakfast Club (1985) —
You can’t have a “Back to School” movie list without this great one from the 80s. The Breakfast Club set off a million teenager’s inner moodiness. Something about the story, or maybe how the entire movie is shot in the empty library and halls of a high school, gets me nostalgic for the simpler times of high school. Considered by many to be the finest film that John Hughes ever made, The Breakfast Club is still as on point about high school life today as when it was made over twenty years ago.
Pretty in Pink (1986) —
Another film involving John Hughes (this time as writer), Pretty in Pink is a classic 80s teenage angst movie. To many people, Pretty in Pink is a bit too dark and much too close to reality to be a good choice for a movie night. If the story is too twisted for you, concentrate on the great soundtrack, the oh-too-cute relationship between Andie (played by the unsinkable Molly Ringwald) and Duckie (Jon Cryer). In this movie, two very different worlds collide, just like what your kids may be going through in a typical American high school.
Grease (1978) —
Alright, alright, I know — it’s a musical. But for those of us who’ve been exposed time and again to High School Musical, catching this classic musical of American teenage life in the 50s will be a sweet distraction. This is what American movie-musicals should be like. From John Travolta’s hilarious portrayal of the clueless Danny and the love story between he and Olivia Newton-John’s Sandy, you and your family will be distracted from the troubles of the day. Get ready for some ultra cheesy songs to be broken into at the beach, on the bleachers, in the school’s garage, at sleepover parties, or just about anywhere you can imagine. It’s a musical. Your kids may complain at first, but they’ll be begging you for the soundtrack within a week.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986) —
This may not strike you as the best choice for a Back to School movie. After all, the plot revolves around a young guy (Matthew Broderick’s Ferris) skipping a day of school and getting in all kinds of trouble with his friends. This is a tongue in cheek nod to suburban teenage ennui (hang in there with me for a second) — after all, Ferris has no real troubles to run away from. He’s a popular student at an upper-middle-class high school. He has the pretty girlfriends, the toys, and the bright future. So he fakes an illness, steals his girlfriend from the school, and runs off with her and his best friend ti explore the big city of Chicago. Consider it a moral about appreciating what you have — if you must.
Rebel Without a Cause (1955) —
Expose your kids to some culture. Rebel Without a Cause is considered one of the great works of cinema in the 20th century — and it is the perfect back to school movie. When John Stark (played by the incomparable James Dean) shows up in a new town and starts at a new high school, things get tough for him and for the new community he’s a part of. This is classic cinema, with spot on 1950s slang and style throughout. Natalie Wood and Dennis Hopper make appearances. Your kids will be in awe of Dean’s performance, and they may learn a lesson along the way. God forbid.
Footloose (1984) —
Another film about moving from one town to another — Footloose is a kind of 80s update of Rebel Without a Cause. Substitute Kevin Bacon for James Dean playing the hip and streetwise Ren McCormack. Between Bacon’s Walkman and all his fancy dancing, a city with no music and “no dancing” turns into a hotbelt of fancy free teenagers. Bacon’s character struggles with all the typical high school stuff — being the “new kid in town”, learning the ins and outs of a new culture, and trying to become part of the “in crowd”. Your kids may laugh at the ridiculous 1980s soundtrack and fashion, but you’ll be transported back to a simpler time.
Back to School (1986) —
So this movie has the “back to school” feature right in the name. Probably the “funniest” movie on the list, Rodney Dangerfield provides lots of one liners (some on the blue side) while he plays a rich guy who goes back to college at the same school as his young son. Lots of laughs, another cheekily 80s soundtrack, and some unbelievable attraction between the hideous Dangerfield and his stunning female lead.
Lean on Me (1989) —
One of the only “serious” additions to this list. An urban school, full to the brim with violence and crime, is turned around by the mayor and superintendent as well as teacher Joe Clark who steps in as the new principal. Morgan Freeman is brilliant as Clark, who makes the point to his rowdy student body that their future is in their own hands. A great “message” movie for kids, and one they’ll actually enjoy, “Lean on Me” is a staple of high school movie time.
Barney Frank Wants You to Smoke Marijuana
There are currently two pretty major pieces of legislation before the Federal government related to marijuana. From the political right comes a motion by an Illinois congressman named Mark Kirk. Kirk wants to make the sale of a particularly potent new strain of marijuana (known as “kush”) punishable by fines up to $1 million and a prison term up to 25 years long. I went to college, and I’ve been to my share of parties after those heady years at University, and I’m a bit familiar with this “kush” strain — yes, it is much stronger than your dad’s stash, and the stuff is so popular people willingly pay as much as $600 for a single ounce of it. Put into perspective, an ounce of low grade marijuana can go for as little as $45 or $50 in my home state.
At the same time as Kirk’s fearmongering boost to the “War on Drugs”, Congressman Barney Frank (D – Massachusetts) produced the Personal Use of Marijuana by Responsible Adults Act of 2009. This bill is the big time version of many college NORML group’s biggest complaints about marijuana related legislation — Frank is attempting to add a little sanity to the debate about marijuana.
Currently, all forms of pot are classified as Schedule I Controlled Dangerous Substances under federal law. What does Schedule 1 mean? For starters, it makes the possession of weed worse than that of morphine, cocaine, amphetamine, or PCP. That’s right — having a bag of ganja on you when you get pulled over is “worse” in the eyes of the law than illicit possession of morphine.
In fact, if you were to get caught with a single joint, you could face a fine of $1,000 and up to a year in prison. Last year, about 800,000 American citizens faced this penalty, clogging up our prisons and our justice system. Meanwhile, pot dealers are stacking cash and laughing at a Federal government that can’t figure out how to make money off those of us who want to smoke a little reefer.
This is the Federal government whose opinions on the economy can have a serious impact on our lives. Ask the millions of people without work how good our Federal government is at economics. Ask millions of Americans who have lost their homes.
Frank’s point appears to be that the Federal government should mind its own business when it comes to responsible adults who wish to use marijuana. Frank has been quoted as saying that the government should stop treating marijuana users as criminals — think of the number of people who go out every night to use another intoxicating drug (alcohol), on which they pay taxes and have to follow certain restrictions from the government. Why shouldn’t marijuana smokers be able to do the same thing?
Wouldn’t a debt ridden state like California profit pretty heftily from the sale of marijuana? What about our national deficit — couldn’t potheads smoke a nice dent into that number?
Thirteen US states have made major moves toward decriminalizing pot. There’s a proposal in Colorado to reduce the fine for simple possession of marijuana to $1, payable with the ease of a traffic ticket. In certain states, like California and New Mexico, people with certain medical conditions (from cancer to work related stress) can receive “reccomendations” from their physician to legally procure medical marijuana. I’ve heard of some counties in California where police look the other way when it comes to pot. The point is that the country’s policy towards marijuana is changing on a state by state basis. So what’s holding up the Congress from making some kind of change?
According to Frank and other colleagues interested in reducing the government’s involvement with marijuana, the problem at the Federal level is a “cultural lag”. Senators and members of the House are afraid of being seen as “soft on drugs”, though many (in private) will apparently admit that they don’t see the use of marijuana as a terrible thing. Often, the argument I hear from people about why marijuana politics don’t need changing is — “Nobody gets arrested for it anyway!” but the opposite is true. Hundreds of thousands of citizens are arrested every year for simple possession of weed.
Frank’s bill is bi-partisan in an era when almost nothing else is. Frank and a fellow Democrat have joined forces with two Republicans to propose some big changes to this country’s policy on marijuana. Not surprisingly, Ron Paul is one of the Republicans — Dana Rohrabacher (from California) is the other.
Frank has plenty of opposition to contend with — much of it in the form of Mark Souder, comngressman from Indiana, who is the poster child for the drug war. Souder (and others who feel the way he does) makes what is known as the “public-square” argument against drugs and other vice — that argument says that the Federal government should keep things like prostitution and drugs off the streets in order to “promote a higher level of morality and civic order”.
The title of this article is obviously a joke. Barney Frank is not actually encouraging people to get high any more than he is suggesting that the government should tax and regulate drugs. Frank’s bill stops far short of the kind of talk going on in California right now, where members of that state’s government see marijuana as a way out of their financial troubles. In fact, Frank’s bill doesn’t suggest any changes to individual state’s legislation.
While Barney Frank is not usually one to take baby steps towards a larger goal, he seems to believe that changes to this country’s attitude toward soft drugs like marijuana will come a tiny bit at a time.
When will changes to our country’s war on potheads arrive? Probably not any time soon. For the time being when you get high you’ll still have to look both ways, feel the twinges of paranoia, and hide your pipes and bongs from your landlord. But stay tuned, because when issues start popping up at the national level, progress usually follows.
What is Newspaper Carrier Day?
Today is September 4th, and you know what that means — International Newspaper Carrier Day!
Today’s the day that people around the world celebrate that most harried soul, the paper boy. But regardless of whether you get your paper delivered by a traditional paper boy on a bike or a grownup paper carrier tossing papers out their window before the sun comes up, you should take a moment to thank the people who bring you your local news and sports page.
In America, Newspaper Carrier Day is always celebrated on September 4th although the true “International” version of the holiday is usually on a different day. For instance, this year International Newspaper Carrier Day will be observed on October 10 — though I have no idea why the varying dates exist, it is important for me to warn our international readers that their day for celebrating the paper boy is a few days in the future. Have no fear, neighbors to the north and south — if you didn’t get your Paper Carrier Day festivities underway today, you’ve still got about a month to prepare.
In Spanish, your paperboy is your “repartidor de periodicos”. Our German friends call their paper delivery worker “Zeitungsjunge”. If you’re planning on thanking your paperboy in France, you’ll be saying “merci” to you “livreuer de journaux”.
I’m not being totally lightheartedhere. What would we do without our paper carrier? I know I’d never have the motivation to wake up and trudge down to the local grocery store to pick up my local rag every morning, and I’ve got to say, my paper carrier is consistent. Only once in the last few years has my paper not been resting neatly by my door, and that was during a terrible monsoon rainstorm. Cheers to you, paperboy.
Newspaper Carrier Day is meant to honor everyone who is now, or once was, a newspaper carrier. Ever have a paper route? You can join in on the fun.
This day has been picked for a specific reason. Believe it or not, Newspaper Carrier Day commemorates the actual hiring of the very first newspaper carrier, according to legend. While the job of newspaper carrying dates back to the early 1800s, it was on September 10, 1833 that 10 year old Barney Flaherty became the first official newspaper carrier. Benjamin Day, who was the publisher of The New York Sun, hired young Barney Flaherty to sell his papers for a penny apiece. The only job requirement asked of young Barney was that he had to prove to Mr. Day that he was capavble of throwing a newspaper into the bushes with consistency.
These days few kids deliver papers door to door from their bikes they way they used to — except maybe in small towns. But, but the “Carrier Day” tradition lives. This job is now largely held by adults, many of them delivering the paper from their cars.
This day is important for those of us who read the news every morning. By recognizing the importance of newspaper carriers in getting the newspaper to us each, we can give back just a bit of what has been given to us every morning, faithfully. Consider finding your paper carrier and giving them a tip, a free meal at a local restaurant, or a bike repair coupon (if your carrier still delivers from his or her bike).
There’s a rumor that President Ronald Reagan once got in on the act of celebrating National Newspaper Carrier Day. On October 6, 1982, Regan wrote a brief message supporting this day’s existence.
Is the economic stimulus package helping the economy?
Just six months after Congress enacted the largest economic stimulus plan in history of the United States, analysts and government officials agree that the desperate measure seems to have contributed in a major way to what most economic brains are calling a “budding recovery”. Don’t pencil in Obama in 2012 just yet — apparently there are significant concerns about a steadily rising unemployment rate and what the impact of the economic stimulus may be to the ever increasing federal budget deficit.
While President Obama and his staff are still under fire for what critics are calling “unrestrained spending” (and in the face of poll data suggesting that Americans are at best ambivalent about the real impact of Obama’s stimulus plan) the cabinet and other officials are attempting to point out the highlights of the stimulus — for instance, claiming that Obama’s stimulus package may have been the single instrument of recovery.
For his part, Vice President Biden made a speech on Thursday highlighting the impact on our economy of the now $787 billion economic stimulus spending package. “The Recovery Act has played a significant role in changing the trajectory of our economy and changing the conversation about the economy in this country,” Biden said at the bipartisan Brookings Institution. He went on to say that “Instead of talking about the beginning of a depression, we are talking about the end of a recession.” Snappy language that should stick in people’s heads for some time to come.
With congressional Republicans on the attack (even in the face of evidence proving that Obama’s plan is working) many citizens are still doubtful that any success has occured, even though economists are in agreement that the package has in fact performed a significant role in staving off a depression, and probably even getting us out of a nasty recession. On the other hand, those same economists seem uncertain about how big that impact has been and whether or not it will last.
One major economic consulting firm, IHS, estimates that the economic stimulus package has increased the 2009 gross domestic product by about 1 percent over what it otherwise would have been. That one percent benefit has mainly come during the second half of the year. That same firm has forecast that Obama’s economic stimulus package will result in the creation of about 2 million more jobs than we would have seen at the end of 2010.
Don’t get too excited — even as the economy shows some signs of improving, labor markets and unemployment numbers are still depressed. Unemployment sits at 9.4 percent, though it missed the double digit mark many feared. Just hours before Vice President Biden spoke, the Labor Department released information that another 570,000 people filed their new unemployment claims just last week. This number has been consistent from week to week.
We’ve been expanding some of our categories on the main website, especially at our minisite devoted to inventory management. The following inventory management articles went live this week:
- Bonded Warehouses
- Economic Order Quantity
- Stock Management
- Consignment Stock
- Inventory Credit
- FIFO vs LIFO Accounting
- Enterprising Resource Planning
- Inventory Management Problems
- Hosted Inventory Management
- Retail Inventory Management
I want to take this opportunity to thank writer and researcher Douglas Brinlee for his excellent work in helping to put together the inventory management section of our website.
Here are 7 cool articles from our main site that you might have missed the last time around:
- Male Pheromones and Female Pheromones
- How to Make a Garden Fountain
- In Love With a Married Man?
- How to Style Curly Hair
- How to Hide Pimples with Makeup
- How to Bury a Dog
- How Much is my Classic Car Worth?
And some interesting stuff on some other sites:
- Fantasy Football Cheat Sheets
- How to Introduce Yourself on a Dating Website
- Great Movie Cameos
- Superman Costumes
Who will host the 2016 Summer Olympics?
The 2016 Summer Olympics, known officially as the Games of the XXXI Olympiad, are in the planning stages. Many cities initially lined up to make a bid at hosting the games but only four remain.
Initially, 26 cities expressed some kind of interest in playing host to the games. Below is a breakdown of some of those cities and how their bids fell apart:
Bangkok, Thailand expressed much enthusiasm for hosting an Olympiad after Thailand’s excellent performance in the 2004 Olympic Games — but Thailand officials decided that an application for the 2010 Youth Games would better suit their abilities. They then lost the bid for the Youth Games to Singapore.
San Diego, California and Tijuana, Mexico discussed making a joint bid for the 2016 games, but discussions fizzled. No future plans for Olympics bids have been discussed.
Cape Town and Durban, South Africa both expressed interest. It is unclear if those countries Olympic officials ended the bid or if the Olympic committee rejected their plans.
Delhi, India was all set to enter a full fledged bid, but in April of 2007 that country announced it would bid for the 2020 Summer Olympics instead, probably wanting more preparation time.
Dubai, of the United Arab Emirates, was also set to make a serious bid for the games, but decided against placing such a bid, preferring to focus on future Olympic games.
Fukuoka and Sapporo, Japan were eliminated by the Japanese Olympic Committe, with the intention of focusing their time and money on Tokyo’s bid.
Houston, Texas and Philadelphia were eliminated by the United States Olympic Committee in favor of three larger cities. San Francisco then withdrew its bid when that city lost its Olympic Stadium funding. Eventually, Los Angeles lost out to Chicago for the country’s bid.
Montreal and Toronto, Canada abandoned their plans for a bid for the Olympic Games in 2016 after Vancouver won the bid for the 2010 Winter Olympics. Toronto is still considering an application for the 2020 Summer Olympic Games or the 2024 Summer Olympics if the 2020 bid falls through.
The following four cities are the finalists for landing the 2016 Summer Olympics.
Chicago, Illinois, USA
Chicago’s plan is to use 15 existing sports venues plus one new building (already drawn up and funded). In the meantime they would build six new permanent Olympic venues, such as the Olympic Stadium and swimming arena, which would later be scaled down for future use. The city is also planning to incorporate the use of nine temporary venues in their Olympic plans — venues that would be scrapped after the Olympics.
The International Olympic Committee said that Chicago’s financing proposal represents a serious risk for that city’s bid. The city of Chicago has set a $750 million financial cap on the necessary guarantees to secure an Olympic games — that cap would cover any potential shortfalls in the Olympic organizing budget. It is still unclear what about that financial plan is risky for the potential Olympic bid, but their budget has been called “ambitious but achievable.” Chicago still has to generate nearly $2 billion in revenue from sponsors before the time of the games.
Chicago’s bid puts a heavy financial burden on that city’s Olympic organizing committee to deliver the necessary infrastructure and “temporary venues”, although if any city can pull it off, its the city of the big shoulders.
On a positive note, the IOC praised Chicago’s “thorough planning and . . . full understanding of the complexity” of any Olympic plan. The IOC found their plan to place temporary arenas in public parks “unique” and praised the city for thinking outside the box. Unfortunately, on a negative note, the IOC says that relying on “temporary and scaled down venues” will increase risks for that city’s ability to deliver a successful set of Olympic games.
The IOC also has doubts about Chicago’s public transportation — and the city’s ability to control the kind of traffic that the Olympics brings. The most dangerous area for congestion during a potential Olympics? The area around McCormick Place.
As for security during the games, the United States has stepped up to ensure the IOC that they would take “full financial and operational responsibility” for securing the city during the Olympics. The IOC warmed to this plan over time, but still want to see a clear description of exactly what this means for the city and the games.
Chicago’s bid isn’t as strong as it could be — for one thing, nearly 4 percent of the city’s population is “strongly opposed” to the games being hosted in the Second City. The IOC ranks Chicago’s bid as “third overall” out of the four remaining cities.
Madrid can boast the strongest public backing in the IOC Olympic host polls, with a solid 84.9 percent of residents fully supporting that city’s bid and only around 2 percent strongly opposed. The citizens of Madrid seem excited by the notion of their city hosting the Olympic games. The IOC ranks Madrid’s bid for the Games as second overall.
However, the Madrid bid team has suffered somewhat after the IOC determined that city’s organizing committee did not fully understand the responsibilities a city has when planning an event as complex as the Summer Olympics.
Madrid’s Olympic concept is seriously compact and appears to be quite efficient for large crowds. A full 23 of the 33 planned venues are in place and two more venues are already being built. This is a city serious about its Olympic bid. The areas where Madrid’s Olympic construction are lacking — the Olympic Stadium itself as well as the venues for rowing, flat water canoeing and open water swimming.
All but two of their planned competition venues will be accessible by public transit, and are within 6.2 miles of the city’s center. The shooting venue is planned for an area just outside the 6 mile radius zone, while sailing is 224 miles away in Valencia. That city plans to build its own athletes village to cut down on travel needs.
According to the IOC, Madrid’s organizing committee is “confused” at best, and that Madrid’s management structure is weak. Weakness in management usually results in financial challenges for a host city, and the IOC doesn’t look too kindly on a city that can’t financially handle an Olympic bid.
The finances for Madrid’s bid are well structured, with several national, regional and city governments stepping up to provide what the IOC calls “strong” financial support. This funding would be in place to cover any potential shortfalls in the city’s organizing budget.
The city of Madrid has been praised for its plan for use of the buildings after the Games. The city of Madrid would fully own the athletes’ village after the Games, and the media center would be used for social programs and housing after the Games.
Two major problems that stand in the way of Madrid’s bid? The IOC thinks that Spanish anti-doping laws lack the stiffness necessary to comply with the World Anti-Doping Agency code. Calling this issue of “utmost importance” to Madrid’s bid, the IOC made it clear that without some change to the anti doping laws, the bid would fall through.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Rio is in last place out of the four bids still on the table for the 2016 Games. Part of the problem for Rio de Janeiro is their lacking public support in the IOC polling date. A full 83 percent of residents do favor of the bid, but a rather hefty 4 percent of those polled are strongly opposed.
Like Madrid, the governments of Rio and Brazil have guaranteed the ability to finance the Olympic infrastructure costs and cover any obstacles in the organizing budget.
Rio’s venue plan would fit in well with their ongoing and expensive urban regeneration plans. Rio is working hard to revamp their infrastructure and public image, especially along the city’s waterways. This reconstruction is fully funded by the government of Brazil, to the tune of $240 billion. The IOC has said that reconstruction in Rio de Janeiro will certainly accelerate the delivery of the Olympic Games, but that the city needs “careful management and monitoring” of their reconstruction projects.
Brazil will play host to the World Cup in soccer in 2014, and this will certainl speed up the delivery on much needed infrastructure in Rio de Janeiro, however, the idea of hosting the world’s two largest sports events inside of two years presents a serious challenge in terms of marketing and communications.
Rio faces a shortage of hotel accomodations for visitors both for the World Cup and for a potential Olympic Games. The city plans to build four villages and use six cruise ships to house people for the Games.
Public safety and crime levels in Brazil are a major concern, so Rio has spent time attempting to engage local communities in various social revamping and sports programs.
Overall, Rio doesn’t appear to have what it takes to secure an Olympic bid. High crime rates, difficult geography, and questions about Brazil’s ability to host two major sports events inside of 24 months will probably keep Brazil out of the running for the 2016 Games.
The frontrunner for the 2016 Games appears to be Tokyo, Japan — even though only 55 percent of that city’s residents support their bid for the Games, and as many as 8 percent of the population lists itself as “strongly opposed”.
There is plenty of praise and criticism for Tokyo’s bid, and the lines of thought on their bid follow the same themes as other cities — for instance, finances are secure but public support is pretty low.
The government of Tokyo has guaranteed the finances for the games and set aside a huge $3.7 billion reserve fund. National and city governments have guaranteed to finance infrastructure changes the IOC deems necessary, and also to cover any potential shortfall in the organizing budget.
The bid aims to highlight the sucess of Tokyo’s hosting of the 1964 Summer Games. Tokyo’s plan is to create a socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable’ Olympic project.
The IOC has high praise for Tokyo’s plan to minimize athlete’s travel times, calling Tokyo’s venue plan “very efficient”. All but the shooting events would take place within 5 miles of the city’s center. Unfortunately, the IOC sees a “lack of clarity” on Tokyo’s claims that most venues are ready right now. Some venues that Tokyo lists as “existing” are actually closer to the “need to be built” phase.
Tokyo also faces questions about their ability to control traffic, and in a country composed of tiny islands like Japan there is the usual concern about the size of land area available to develop the Olympic Village.
Scooby Doo will be celebrating his 40th birthday on September 13, 2009. The occasion will include the launch of a rebooted movie with an all-new, all-younger live action cast. Brian Levant (the cinematic genius behind The Flintstones and The Flinstones Viva Rock Vegas) is the director. You can see the new Scooby Doo reboot movie on September 13 on the Cartoon Network. The new movie is titled Scooby Doo! The Mystery Begins! You can read more about it at the MTV website.
Scooby Doo has been featured in two live action films prior to this, both of which featured Matthew Lillard, Freddie Prinze Jr., Sarah Michelle Gellar, and Linda Cardellini. Both movies featured a Mystery Inc. in their mid-twenties, with their animated adventures a part of their past. This reboot hopes to bring back the “meddling kids” aspect of the show’s concept.
Direct to DVD Scooby Doo movies have also been popular, and they were produced at a rate of one per year from 1998 to 2009. These animated movies included:
- Scooby Doo on Zombie Island
- Scooby Doo and the Witch’s Ghost
- Scooby Doo and the Alien Invaders
- Scooby Doo and the Cyber Chase
- Scooby Doo and the Legend of the Vampire
- Scooby Doo and the Monster of Mexico
- Scooby Doo and the Loch Ness Monster
- Aloha, Scooby Doo!
- Scooby Doo in Where’s My Mummy?
- Scooby Doo Pirates Ahoy
- Chill Out, Scooby Doo!
- Scooby Doo and the Goblin King
- Scooby Doo and the Samurai Sword
Some of those titles sound like they’d make good Indiana Jones movies.
How has the health care debate changed?
I was in line for a flu shot this morning, after reading over the weekend about the possibility of the worst flu season in forty years, thinking about health care.
I know I’m not the only one. You can’t turn on the news without getting slapped in the face by a pundit or a Senator with an opinion. It struck me, as the nurse slid the needle into my shoulder, that any flu crisis this fall could act as a magnifying glass for one of the two sides in this fight. Should there be mistakes made by doctors, long lines for vaccinations, millions of people hospitalized, or (God forbid) a large number of swine flu related deaths, the Democrats stance that health care in America needs to be revamped will be bolstered. On the other hand, should the flu crisis simply not happen, or should America be as well prepared as possible when the crisis starts, Republicans won’t have to worry about the new face of the health debate. It was just a thought.
Back in the real world, I started to gather quotes and new reports on the health care debate. After all, President Obama’s been on vacation for a week. It’s time to look at the new face of the health care debate — and to reflect on what the debate means in a world without Senator Kennedy.
It seems that Republicans are kicking off up their new offensive just in tirm for our lawmakers to gather back in Washington, D.C. after their summer break. As the date of legislative commencement gets closer, the Democrats have thrown their hat into the ring as well, attempting to come up with new means by which they can gain the support of Americans.
We’ve all heard by now that Senator Ted Kennedy made health care overhaul the “cause of his life” right up to the very end, and we expected Democrats to evoke his memory in order to advance their agenda and pass new health care reform legislation. There has been conjecture that Democrats will put Kennedy’s name on the bill, in memory of the Senator who fought hard for this reform.
Speaking in Toronto, President Bill Clinton had this to say about Kennedy’s passing — “I hope that his lifetime dream — that America finally will follow Canada and every other advanced nation in the world in providing affordable health care to all of our people — will pass.” Clinton had high praise for the Canadian health care system, HealthCanada, though many critics feel that their system of universal coverage wouldn’t quite work in our country.
Let it be said, for once and for all, that Senator Kennedy was in favor of a universal health coverage system, much like HealthCanada, and was one of the first to suggest that health insurance be made a requirement for all Americans. Democrats say Kennedy’s death should help push the health care debate in a direction that favors the outcomes they’re looking for — the debate in Washington is quite divided both between parties and among them. Within the Democratic party there is much disagreement — some more conservative Democrats are seriously opposed to some of the more leftist measures proposed by the President and his cabinet, and they want “clarity” in terms of how the government would pay for this major overhaul.
Others against the President’s health care proposals say that they disagree with the way Obama’s message has been presented, and that the Democrat’s talking points need to change even as Americans are growing increasingly suspicious of health care reform. For example, Former Sen. Tom Daschle said the White House and Democrats need to do work on making the issue of health care reform a kind of “moral imperative” for the country, to make the case that without this reform, our quality of life will decrease.
Daschle said the Republican party has demonstrated an “organizational strength” that he does not see from the side of the Democrats. Personally, I think he’s referring to the dispensation that occurs among right wingers, who tune into Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, and other condensed sources to find out how they should feel about an issue. But I suppose Daschle’s point still holds some truth — the political left needs to do a better job of boiling the issue down to its major themes, points that “really motivate and have emotional value” in the words of Tom Daschle.
It isn’t just the Democrats who are being unrealistic. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said on Monday that ” . . . there is no need for an overhaul of the entire health care system” going so far as to call the U.S. health care system the “best in the world”. Who’s being unrealistic now, Republicans?