Friday, June 07, 2002

Backstreet Boy Testifies on Mountaintop Mining

Backstreet Boy Kevin Richardson testified before Congress yesterday on the issue of mountaintop mining. Apparently, Richardson's extensive experience rolling around in mountains of money has made him uniquely qualified to lecture Congress on this subject. Or, Joe Lieberman is grandstanding and trying to focus media attention on himself by inviting Richardson to testify. You decide.

"Mr. Richardson is here as more than a well-known celebrity," Lieberman said. "He is knowledgeable on this issue and has in fact worked to protect the environment in his home state. I believe his voice will add to our understanding of the issue."

Since "knowing something about something" appears to be the new standard for allowing people to testify in front of Congress, I hereby announce my intention to address a joint session of Congress on how to avoid 'bitter beer face'. Also, I'm pretty sure Ted Kennedy would like to know my special formula for the Ultimate Margarita.

At first, I wasn't sure what to think about Richardon's testimony. I was too busy dry heaving. But after that, it occured to me that there is an upside here - this may, in fact, be the nation's healthy response to the dangerously high levels of suckage in today's music industry. After all, if Richardson is busy testifying in front of Congress, he's too busy to write more songs that have the word 'girl' in them 27 times. Our government seems fully engaged in solving the bad music problem - Congress has Richardson tied up, while NASA plans to launch N'Sync's Lance Bass into space. Someone call the State Department - I smell a diplomatic position in Rwanda for Celine Dion.

Anyway, given the importance of Richardsn's testimony, I thought a transcript of it would be helpful. Let's listen in, shall we?

Richardson: Hey, politician dudes! You've gotta stop people from mining on mountains. It's not cool.
Senator Kennedy: Is it true that you guys have hundreds of groupies back stage after every concert? And they go home afterwards and don't even try to sue you or anything?
Richardson: Yes, but I want to talk about mountaintop mining. I don't like it. It looks ugly when you fly over top of a mountain at 35,000 feet in your Learjet, and it's all, like, chewed up and stuff.
Senator Clinton: Is it true that Lance Bass is single again? I think he's dreamy.
Richardson: I don't know. He's in N'Sync. I'm in The Backstreet Boys. You can tell the groups apart by... Okay, maybe he is in the Backstreet Boys. Or am I in N'Sync? Wait. He's 'the smart one', and I'm also 'the smart one'. So we are in different bands. Gotta be. The formula doesn't allow for duplicates. Anyway, about this mountaintop mining stuff...
Senator Byrd: Just tell us how much money you want, and how much of it can be spent in my state, okay?
Richardson: Well, I'm not exactly looking for money, I want you to stop...
Senator Lieberman: Could you move a bit to left, kid? You're blocking the press's view of my new suit.
Richardson: Uh, sure, but...
Senator Thurmond: Can I get a wax pressing of your music for my Victrola?
Richardson:What's a Vic..
Senator Hutchison: Too bad about Dee Dee Ramone, huh? "Rock N' Roll High School" is my favorite movie. The Ramones kicked serious ass, didn't they? But just like Johnny Rotten said, it's better to burn out than fade away, am I right?
Richardson: That's something I'm not qualified to speak on. I have no talent or understanding of music. About mountaintop...
Senator Lieberman: Okay, the press is gone. Thanks kid. You were a big help.
Richardson: But I didn't get to say anything about....
Senator Clinton: Could I get you to autograph my copy of the Federal Register? I'd just die if I let Kevin Richardson get within 20 feet of me and leave without an autograph!
Richardson: Piss off.

All in all, another historic session in Congress. What with the war on terror, the threat of nuclear war in India and Pakistan, a stock market falling faster than Bill Clinton's reputation, and the biggest re-structuring of the government since WWII, it's nice to see that Congress knows where its priorities lie.

Wednesday, June 05, 2002

A Music Industry Suckage Update

Here is yet another hand-wringing article about the state of the music industry: Fans, artists and industry: Nobody's rockin'. At least this one gets it mostly right - a big part of the problem is that the music industry is now largely controlled by an oligarchy of clueless bean counters.

There are some interesting tidbits in this article. The first is that the best selling album today is the new effort from Eminem, "The Eminem Show". Now, looking at this guy's demographic, I'd have to say that these are exactly the same people who are most likely to download music from the Internet. And yet, the album sold 300,000 copies in its first two days in stores, and is expected to sell 1 million more this week, which will be a new sales record. Internet downloads do not appear to have hurt Eminem.

On the other hand, 'compilation' CD's of current radio hits are not selling, largely because there are no current radio hits. And that has absolutely nothing to do with piracy. People still listen to music in their cars, it's just that more and more of them are listening to their own CD's or tuning into 'classic rock' stations. People just don't like most of the music being produced today, and that's why they aren't buying it. As the Eminem example shows, if people like the music they will still buy the CD.

Continuing from the article:

As for today's music offerings, well, fresh bands grow stale overnight while The Beatles continue to sell quite steadily. In this singles-minded era, fans forge only feeble bonds with momentary artists.

''Rock bands have hits, but nobody knows who they are,'' says Alan Light, a former Spin editor preparing to launch a music magazine.

''It's the Nickelback question. They have the most-played song in modern-rock radio history (How You Remind Me), and you can't pick them out of a police lineup. There's no story, and it's part of an enormous problem at the heart of the music industry. Artists are being prematurely dismissed or not signed in the first place.

Apart from inciting 'Nickelback' into a life of anonymous crime, the implication here is that there is something about new music that makes it hard for bands to gain name recognition. And that's true. The problem is that the music is CRAP. The same thing happened to crappy music in the 60's, the 70's, and the 80's. Anyone remember Brownsville Station? "Smokin' in the Boy's Room" was a monster hit for them. How about The Starland Vocal Band? "Afternoon Delight" was a huge smash. And I'll bet even those of you who remember the band names know nothing about them, and couldn't name a single member. The Starland Vocal Band fan club consists of one old guy named Howie, and I believe he's an accountant for Sony.

It takes more than one hit song to establish name recognition. It takes a career of excellent music, and that means real talent is generally a necessity. And I'm not talking about the ability to sing and dance - the supply of good singers and dancers is huge, but Bob Dylan can do neither and he has had a great career. The talent we're talking about is artistic talent - the ability to shape words and music in ways that speak to the human condition. Talent like that requires nurturing, not a half-pound of glitter and a bitchin' video.

The problem today is that groups with real talent aren't being allowed to grow. Many classic artists started out slowly in record sales, and some never had big hits at all when they were making records. It took a large body of work to establish a fan base.

Consider The Grateful Dead. Their only top-10 hit, "A Touch of Grey", charted 22 years and several liver operations after the band's first album. Despite the lack of individual hits, they became immensely popular and turned into an enormous cash cow on tour. Today, their albums sell better than they did when they were first released.

Had The Grateful Dead started up last year, they would have been cancelled by the record company after one or two albums, and faded into obscurity. And of course, if a record company signed The Grateful Dead today, they would have forced Jerry Garcia to change his name to 'P. Doopy Doo' or dropped him from the band because he wasn't trending well with the 12 year-old female demographic.

As long as the record industry continues to favor focus groups and 'packaged' bands, it will continue to neglect real talent, and it will continue to decline. File sharing has nothing to do with it.
American Taliban Defense Team Wants Court to Wear Flower in its Hair

Lawyers representing American Taliban John Walker Lindh are at it again. This time, they've asked for the trial to be moved to San Francisco from Alexandria, where, they contend, a fair trial cannot be had due to proximity to the Pentagon. In a statement before the court, Lindh's defense team said, in part:

Your honour, not only is this venue inappropriate due to its proximity to the Pentagon, which was severely damaged in the September 11 terrorist attacks, which my client deplores, had nothing to do with, and had no knowledge of --- why, just the other day, he was saying to me, boy howdy Mister Lawyer, was I ever puzzled when those American guys showed up and started asking me questions, which I didn't answer at the time because neither of them said "Simon Says", because what would American guys be doing questioning a hog-tied yet peaceful and America-loving student of Islam, which, I hasten to point out, means "peace", and then there was that whole prison uprising thing, man, don't get me started --- anyhow, so, yeah, the venue sucks. Plus, Mr. Walker can't get a trial by a jury of his peers here --- I have looked again Virginia, your honour, and I must say I am struck by the complete absence of freaky youths whose hyper-indulgent hippie-dippy parents encouraged and funded their teenage kid's solo excursion into extreme Islam which included dropping out of school for long trips to Middle Eastern countries, wearing a turban while visiting Ireland --- and your honour, you may have noticed my name is Brosnahan, and yes, I do have a touch of the blarney, and I have to say, it'd take a boy of rare courage to pop around the pub wearing a turban in the old country, and hearing about that just made me want to hug the boy and say, don't you know it's gonna be all right my brave brave boy, but then he would say get your Satan-worshippin' hands off me, infidel --- anyways, your honour, my client is a unique and precious snowflake, and while Alexandria's a lovely town, it's a little short on peers of John Walker Lindh.

The prosecution interrupted once to object to Brosnahan's claim to have a touch of the blarney; the judge sustained the objection and ordered a notation that Brosnahan is in fact full of shit be entered into the record. The judge also reprimanded Brosnahan for using the longest run-on sentence in recent legal history.

If the change-of-venue motion fails, Lindh's defense team is by no means out of ever-more-cunning legal maneuvers. A quick peek at their play book revealed the following:

  • "Tain't right, he's just a bwah" --- to be read aloud using the voice of "Carl" from "Sling Blade".
  • Your honour, my client was told that what he needed was to play "hide the salami" and due to an unfortunate bout of dyslexia, what he heard was "hide with Islamists." Are we as a people prepared to sentence a boy to life in prison over a spoonerism?
  • The Chewbacca Defense
  • "If the burka fits, you must acquit!"
  • If freed, Johnny's life will be devoted to a hunt for the real killers of Johnny Spann.
  • Motion to change the trial's venue to Afghanistan.
  • The Twinkie Defense

    Walker, 21, is accused of being a complete asshole.
  • GOP Fundraising Mystery Solved!

    Our esteemed Steve recently described his confusion over receiving an invitation to a George W. Bush fundraiser.

    Well, consider the mystery solved. According to this story, an invitation to the same fundraiser has been sent to an inmate at a correctional institute. Clearly, the administration considers America's violent offenders to be excellent fundraising prospects. So remember, Steve - if you're going to shoot a man in Reno just to watch him die, be prepared for the consequences. You may have to have supper with the President.

    Tuesday, June 04, 2002

    Annex Alberta!

    In another typically excellent article, Mark Steyn suggests that the United States annex Alberta. Why? Well, because we have the Calgary Stampede, and a bitchin' display of the Aurora Borealis.

    Oh, and we have oil. A lot of oil. We are the lubricated province. Chafing is unknown to the average Albertan. Whenever we're feeling particularly dry and itchy, we just punch a stick in the ground and roll around in that bubbling black gold. We have enough oil to keep the hair of ALL the Baldwin brothers slick and shiny and black. That's how much oil we have.

    Alberta is a good fit for America. We like guns - you like guns. We both have ex-alcoholic leaders. Imagine the fun they can have sitting around the Oval Office, cleaning their guns and talking about the time at the G-8 summit when they put lampshades on their heads and ran around yelling, "Look at me, I'm a Saudi prince!".

    However, Albertans don't come without baggage. Therefore, we have one demand: You have to find dates for our little sister provinces, British Columbia and Saskatchewn. British Columbia could be annexed as well - she's beautiful, but a bit of an airhead. Kind of like California. I suggest we merge the entire left coast into a new state called "SuperCaliforniaExpialidocious". It'll be like an entire coastline full of tasty waves and cool buds, dude.

    That leaves Saskatchewan. She's not much to look at, but she has a good personality and works hard. You might not want her, but you'll have to find her some country that will. Perhaps Argentina would be interested - it hasn't had a date since that unfortunate fiscal crisis and is looking a little hard-up.

    So let's get down to business, America. You want our oil, and we want... Aw hell. You can have the oil. Just get us away from this Chretien guy - He's weirding us out.
    Inappropriate Mail Watch

    After the heartbreak of having to turn down an invite to the President's Dinner a couple of weeks ago, I have once again had my self-esteem damaged by the contents of my mailbucket... this time, it was an invitation to join the AARP.

    Yes, I have some premature grey issues, but this is just plain hurtful. The name which appears on the invitation (and snazzy plastic membership card) doesn't contain any telltale initials which might indicate where they got my name, so I dunno which demographic freakshow to blame this time. Once again, though, my ambitions to join the mainstream of American political life and secure my place at the trough have been thrown into doubt:

    Your admission to AARP membership is guaranteed as long as you are 50 or over, whether you are working or retired.

    Ageist bastards. Shouldn't we call this "chronological profiling"?

    Other fun facts:

  • Nowhere in the mailer are the words "American Association of Retired Persons" mentioned... nuthin' but "AARP". In fact, you have to drill down a few levels on AARP's website to find a grudging admission that, yes, the organization kinda sorta used to be called "American Association of Retired Persons". Because, really, isn't AARP more about a sense of entitlement than whether or not you have a job?

  • Among the membership benefits are magazine subscriptions: "You'll receive My Generation or Modern Maturity*, AARP's bimonthly member magazines, packed with fascinating features." The footnote explains that "Members born after 1945 will receive My Generation as their member magazine." Presumably, if I managed to get in the club, I would instead be subscribed to Young Whippersnapper or When I Was Your Age, I Didn't Have Time For Magazines instead.

  • "AARP stands up for your interests in the halls of government, defending Social Security and pension rights, improving medical coverage, and promoting laws against age bias." Make no mistake --- AARP is ready to screw Young America on your behalf --- hard and deep.

    I expect that next week I'll get either a membership kit from the Green Party or a recruitment flyer for the US Immigration and Naturalization Service.

    Stay tuned for weird mail news as it happens!
  • Monday, June 03, 2002

    InstaPundit Links are Now Alphabetical

    That is, of course,, where a mere mention has been known to bring down servers and cause more page views than a photo of Anna Kournikova's panties.

    Given this startling development in the blog world, as of today we shall be officially known as, "Aaaaah Happy Fun Pundit".

    Thanks to VodkaPundit for the heads-up.

    DINGDINGDING! This message just won the blogger award for most links to other blogs in a message containing the least amount of useful information. I'd like to thank my imaginary agent, and of course the morons over at Workers World, who are to comedy what Yasser Arafat is to good grooming. And if that analogy made sense to you, you haven't been drinking enough.
    Elmo Goes To Washington

    As CNN reported last month, Elmo from Sesame Street recently testified before the Education Appropriations Subcommittee. He was there to ask for more money for music programs.

    Anyone who has heard Elmo sing can vouch for the fact that some serious money needs to be spent on this problem. In fact, I believe there is a crisis in muppet musicianship. Bird Bird can't hold a tune in a sack, and 'Animal' is continually at risk of pulling a Keith Moon and drowning in his own vomit. We are in danger of a strategic gap in our muppet capabilities along these lines, and it's totally understandable that the government should cough up the 2 million bucks poor Elmo is asking for.

    But all of this brings up a more serious question about congressional testimony from muppets and cartoon characters. Consider this testimony before the House Agriculture Subcommittee:

    Homer Simpson: I'm here today to plead for the creation of a new department to oversee the protection of our nation's dwindling donut capability. We need to plant new donut seeds instead of taking up space on our farms with wheat and other non-tasty products.

    Senator Byrd: Mr. Simpson, donuts are not grown. They are made from other products.

    Homer: That's not true! Just last week I was digging in my back yard and dug up a partially grown donut.

    Senator Byrd: That was your trash, Homer. You dug up a half-eaten, moldy donut.

    Homer: Mmmmm... Half eaten moldy donut..... awwgwdwd....

    At that moment, Homer's mike shorted out from drool, ending the session.
    Memo From Captivity

    If anyone reads this, send help! Dan has gone crazy... he's taken my guns, started regulating and taxing private property, and is forcing everyone to eat nothing but his "magical wonder food", which I believe is Count Chocula cereal mixed with some kind of cooking oil. Based on this behaviour, I suspect he may have been elected to the Canadian House of Parliament; if he starts awarding government contracts to his dog or gets turfed becuase he's potential competition to the sitting Prime Minister, this worst of fears will have been realized.

    On the other hand: Dan, if you're reading this, remember that we've been cronies for years .... how about a patronage appointment? I've always had a hankering to be "Special Plenipotentiary for Watching Movies and Reading Books"; can ya set me up?

    Sunday, June 02, 2002

    We Get Letters

    Actually, quite a few of them. They've all blended together in my brain, so let me sum up:

    blah blah blah blah you peacenik bastard blah blah blah take away my guns! blah blah blah you want to disarm pilots blah blah blah you're a little wussy boy blah blah blah how dare you blah blah you suck blah blah head up your ass blah blah.

    Good points all, and well spoken. But completely missing the point. So let me clear up some confusion before the hilarity begins: I am not against arming pilots.

    As far as I'm concerned, you can arm pilots, passengers, babies, and the pets in cargo if you think it will do some good. I was a leader in the attempt to put .25 caliber handguns in every box of Count Chocula. My favorite movie star is the .44 magnum Desert Eagle. It should win an oscar for 'appearance in a movie that is most likely to kick serious ass'. My daughter's name is Smith, and we use Wesson oil when cooking. Put those together, and you know what you get - A kid screaming from being put in cooking oil. So that would be bad. But if you put the WORDS together, you get an idea for my deep, abiding love of guns. Bullets too.

    And of course, the reading challenged must have missed the fact that I called for more concealed carry laws in the same message that seems to have gotten me branded as some kind of anti-gun crusader.

    My point was more basic - the debate over airline security has gone awry. We seem to have arrived at the position that locking cockpit doors and arming pilots are the only options available to us. But both of these are examples of the same problem - the tendency to look for security from authority figures and central control. And neither of those options are complete solutions, though both should be part of a more comprehensive security plan.

    In a free society, the security of privately-owned assets should be at least partly the responsibility of the owners. And if you want to remain free, you must accept that responsibiity. Because if you just leave it up to the state, you'll get statist solutions. The cure may be worse than the problem.

    So it's time to think outside the box and figure out ways to make our freedom work for us, rather than looking at ways to trade off our freedom for more security. I chose airline security as an example of how we can provide citizens with the tools to defend themselves rather than relying on the state to make the cabin totally safe.

    Our politicians have decided that it's politically dangerous to tell us to look after ourselves. So they feed us sugar-coated plans to take care of us, and tell us to ignore the war and get on with our lives as if nothing was going on. The government will care for us. And all they ask in return is that we give up a few freedoms here and there.

    What they should be saying is that this is a war, the enemy is here, and it's time for people to pay attention, learn some fundamentals of security, and take some responsibility. To that end, the government can offer tax credits for self-defense classes, make it easy to get concealed carry permits, give companies tax breaks to pay for security audits by private firms, and set up volunteer programs for citizens to become involved in the homeland security effort. We did similar things in World War II. If this is really a war, then it isn't business as usual and the government shouldn't say it is.

    And every box of Count Chocula should have a .25 pistol. Old dreams die hard.