February 27, 2006

Dubai

Interesting post on Dubai -- it agrees with my instant reaction to the 'port scandal' (which was further confirmed by Lieberman's reaction; Lieberman's one of the reasonable ones). Besides thinking that the whole thing's rather ridiculous, though, I have to admit that I don't feel too bad for the administration. I believe the expression is "taste of your own medicine".


(The picture is the Palm Islands resort complex off the coast of Dubai)

February 24, 2006

Chicago = Tall

tall chicago.jpg
Spent the past week in Chicago, where it was very cold. My primary impression, though, was of tall. Those who have not been to DC may not be aware of this, but there is a height restriction imposed on all the buildings of somewhere between eight and ten stories (roughly), so that none of them are anywhere as near as tall as the Washington Monument. Across the Potomac in Alexandria and Arlington there are small skyscrapers, but nothing like what you would expect in a major city center (these compare in scale more to suburban "node" sized skyscrapers). So its quite a change to go to Chicago, which is known more or less as the birthplace of the American skyscraper, what with Louis Sullivan and all. Although this picture was of a random (but very tall) skyscraper right next to our hotel, the buildings that impressed me most were, in order: (1) the Marina City towers (i.e. the Wilco towers), (2) the El train stations downtown (especially Randolph and Wabash), and (3) The Tribune Tower and Wrigley Building (which I consider a pair because they share the Gothic Revival style and sit on opposite sides of Michigan Ave just across the Chicago River from downtown, all sentry-like).



February 10, 2006

Cartoon thing? What cartoon thing?

Kinsley gets to the bottom of the whole cartoon thing over at Slate:

The other problem with his little joke about double standards, and with the whole supposedly mordant comparison between denying the Holocaust and portraying the prophet, is that the offended Muslims do not want a world where people are free to do both. They don't even want a world where people are not free to do either, which would at least be consistent. They want a world where you may not portray the Prophet Mohammed (even flatteringly, slaying infidels or whatnot) but you may deny the Holocaust all day long.

February 9, 2006

Current Event: Cowardly or Courageous III

Well, this is only sort of a current event (and its sort of two related current events). But I think it's close enough. And the ambiguity of whether its an event or not should make dichotomizing it all the more fun.

The first half of the event is this: the White House has agreed to study whether polar bears should be placed on the endangered species list. This would not be all that unusual (lots of mammals make the endangered species list, you know?), except that the condition threatening them is climate change (better known by his horror-movie name, global warming). I quote the WaPo:

"As global temperatures have risen, Arctic ice -- which polar bears depend on to hunt for food -- has shrunk. In September, the National Snow and Ice Data Center reported that summer sea ice had declined to a record minimum, and studies suggest the Arctic may be ice-free in summer by the end of the century. Some polar bears in Alaska and Canada have become noticeably thinner and less able to reproduce in recent years; the population in Canada's Western Hudson Bay has dropped 15 percent over the past decade... 'It's pretty easy to make a connection between what's happening to sea ice and what might happen to polar bears...'"

I'm sure we're all familiar with the "Global Warming is a Myth" cottage industry, so I'm going to link this to another (relatively) recent event: the statement released by many leading evangelicals regarding Christianity and climate change, the Statement of the Evangelical Climate Initiative, which puts forth the claim that acting against the threat of global climate change is a moral imperative for Christians:

"Because all religious/moral claims about climate change are relevant only if climate change is real and is mainly human-induced, everything hinges on the scientific data. As evangelicals we have hesitated to speak on this issue until we could be more certain of the science of climate change, but the signatories now believe that the evidence demands action."

You may determine what portion of this you would like to consider in terms of the cowardly/courageous dichotomy.

Courageous (What part, you ask? I make the rules so I don't have to say). I suggest that, if you are not persuaded of the reality of global climate change driven by human agency, you should follow the link to the Evangelical Climate Initiative provided above and consider the evidence put forth.

Grammys

grammys.jpg

Can someone please tell me what the difference between "Album of the Year" and "Record of the Year" is?

Oh, and I still can't stop laughing when I see the Gillette Fusion commercial.

February 6, 2006

Life Imitates the Onion

If I had more time I'd make this a common feature, but since I was tipped off to this on Slate, I'll at least take the time to point out how life is, as it is prone to doing, imitating the Onion (warning: the Onion, as ever, features, umm, foul language).

Maybe My Opinion was influenced by Shezilla, But

WAR3.JPG
Well its February (Feb are you airy?) 2006 and that means time to resume attendance at live music events and perhaps report back to you, the interweb, on the state of live music in our nation's capitol. Its been a while, probably since I saw Crooked Fingers around this time last year (when it was really just Eric and no band), so I think its about time to resume my progress towards total deafness in my left ear. The 2006 DC area calendar has kicked off with Death Vessel, His Name is Alive, and Low -- but its just getting underway, we have Magnolia Electric Co, Destroyer, David Bazan, Vic Chesnutt, Mark Eitzel, and the Silver Jews on our plate for the next couple months, which should keep the wife and I busy.

Back to Saturday: Jess and I went for Low, but left most impressed with His Name is Alive, who I'd never heard before (actually, we intended to go see RJD2, but that didn't work out because it sold out). His Name is Alive is basically the project of one Warren Defever plus whoever is with him at the time (there are various semi-permanent band members). In the ten or so years they've been around, they've compiled quite the extensive discography. I'm a bit hard pressed to describe their sound, because it was quite eclectic, but I suppose as a really distant reference point I could name Broken Social Scene; less because they sound alike than because they seem to share a similar taste for deconstructed pop songs bordered by sound collages that stradle the line between chaotic and beautiful. I'm sure its not for everyone (as can be safely deduced from the sales of both band's albums), but I have to admit that I have a real soft spot for that stuff. Plus there was a really great conch solo. The most unfortunate points were (1) the presence of Shezilla, a big-boned (and in this case, I use this as a description, not a euphemism for fat)
behemoth of a woman who insisted on necking with her equally unattractive boyfriend beside us and (2) the amount of alcohol that Warren claimed to have consumed. I believed Warren, since it seemed that he could barely remember what song they were playing, much less what part of it he was supposed to be playing.

I was a bit tired for Low; if you're familiar with them, you'll understand how that can be a bit of a problem. I'm not sure how I felt about it in the end: the music was great, but it seemed like Alan Sparhawk (the singer/songwriter/guitarist) was just climbing back from deep depression and could easily slip back in, which isn't the most pleasant thing to watch. Still, it seems that a lot of the best music comes out of the hardest times for the musicians, and I think Low's latest album may be a good example of that. I was glad that I was able to church it yesterday, though.

February 2, 2006

The Unbearable Heaviness of Writing

Usually the Atlantic is a joy to read. But the series that Bernard-Henry Levi wrote in it (which has now unfortunately mutated into book length) had some of the most bloated, obfuscated, and self-important writing I've ever read... comparision between this:

tocqueville.jpg

and this

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is ridiculous. I just thought I'd point that out. If you want a more serious critique of American culture, I'd suggest watching this. If you want to know what's so bad about it, read Garrison Keillor's review in the Times. I quote: "In more than 300 pages, nobody tells a joke. Nobody does much work. Nobody sits and eats and enjoys their food. You've lived all your life in America, never attended a megachurch or a brothel, don't own guns, are non-Amish, and it dawns on you that this is a book about the French. There's no reason for it to exist in English, except as evidence that travel need not be broadening and one should be wary of books with Tocqueville in the title."