Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Hitting the Wrong (?) Note

By Drew

A couple of weeks ago, Joe Queenan (full disclosure: one of my favorite writers) published a very funny, very nasty piece in The Guardian in which he attacked modern classical music. (I particularly liked one of his lines in which he describes concert-goes who "have learned to stay awake and applaud politely at compositions by Christopher Rouse and Tan Dun. But they do this only because these works tend to be short and not terribly atonal; because they know this is the last time in their lives they'll have to listen to them.")

Needless to say, Queenan's piece has caused something of a stir among classical music blogs. It's quite possible, dim bulbs that some of them are, that they didn't realize Queenan's role as a resident cultural curmudgeon. But the debate has been nothing if not spirited. Terry Teachout, while taking Queenan to task on his total dismissal of modern music, agrees that "I don't go in for crunch-and-thump music, nor do I care for the over-and-over-and-over-again minimalism of John Adams and Philip Glass, which puts me to sleep." (I agree with a lot of what Teachout says about the modern music he likes.) Teachout's friend Ethan Iverson, who champions "frequently fiercely dissonant and somewhat tuneless" music, disagrees. (By the way, there's some terrific writing going on from these bloggers, so don't think that the links I've chosen here are anything more than the tip of the iceberg in this discussion. And check out the writers they link to as well - you might not agree with them, as I didn't, but you'll be informed about the discussion by reading them.)

I suppose the way you feel about classical music in general will dictate your answer to this question. If you feel that it's a window to God's creation, for example, you probably tend to side more with Jay Nordlinger, who wrote that

Music critics and other such types like to say that what the public really wants is modern music — Cage, Birtwistle, Stockhausen. None of this Classical Top 40 stuff. But this is wishful thinking, of course. If you give 'em Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, and "Finlandia" — not to mention "Carmen" or "William Tell" — boy, do they come.

As is often the case, I gotta go with Jay on this. (Even though there's plenty more good stuff out there than the "top 40" that you hear on classical radio nowadays - hey program directors, you ever heard of "deep cuts"?) Yes, there are twentieth-century composers that I'm very fond of - Britten, Stravinsky, Copeland, Rorem, Barber, Menotti, even Ligetti and Webern. Now, there are a lot of critics who would complain that this music isn't "modern" enough for them (except perhaps for the last two). But, as we've written many times at this site, there is an undeniable relationship between truth and beauty, particularly the natural beauty in the tones that mirror the rhythms of the human body. (And we touched on modern music as well, as this link to our four-part roundable from last year on "Art and Politics" will attest.)

And so we are left with this question to ponder: is there, in fact, a relationship between the harshness of modern music and the harshness of our modern culture? For we have become a harsh people, in our words, our opinions, our very way of life. Some call it edgy, but others might suggest it's merely nasty. Is that a good thing? Is our culture really better off now than it was fifty years ago?

I'm just asking.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Political Correctness in Music: "A Different Read"

By Bobby

A decade ago, while a college student, I was able to work with South Carolina Citizens for Life Executive Director Holly Gatling on having a Catholic songstress appear at the state March for Life (an event which I have since attended ten more times). At the end of the year, the same songstress appeared at an event at the now-imploded Charlotte Coliseum (which had negative images in the Carolinas thanks to George Shinn, who moved the Hornets to New Orleans, and is the "curse of Kobe Bryant," and as Vin Scully would say, still had 11 more years to pay on it when it was imploded) that was televised on the now-imploded The Nashville Network (MTV's implosion of which led to some bad blood that causes me to still have a negative view on MTV, especially since a college friend had family who were fired by MTV; the friend's cousin headed the CBS Charlotte office that was shut down by MTV since its programming would be replaced by raunchy MTV programming, bad reruns, and WWE).

At The Nashville Network-televised event (I attended it live), the songstress sang from her new album at the time a song which I liked.

A few years later, a school did the same song for show choir. When I viewed the clip, I noticed the song was politically correct with key words removed from the song. Some liberals now have the belief that the alteration of the song without the songstress' permission is a must, and it should stay politically correct. Now if you're singing the song with the politically correct lyrics, are you changing the entire message of the song? It has to, considering the way she wrote it.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Stupidity Alert

By Drew

So many things to write about, so little time. But here's a bon mot for the evening, from Jay Nordlinger's NRO column last week:

At a New York Philharmonic concert not long ago, they played the overture to Rossini’s opera L’Italiana in Algeri, or The Italian Girl in Algiers. Often, when speaking in English, people shorten the title to “The Italian Girl.” Well, the Philharmonic’s program had a PC and utterly absurd translation: “The Italian Woman in Algiers.” That is so wrong in so many ways.

Wrong in so many, many ways. And Jay Nordlinger is someone who gets it right in so many ways. (Even if he is a little more pro-Bush than I am!) If I had more time I'd toss off some more great insights from him - maybe later this week.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


By Bobby

  • When I think of George Michael, I think of the retired Washington-area sportscaster whose Sports Machine was a popular syndicated programme for many years nationally, and not the sexual deviant pop star. Lindsay Czarniak was one of the recurring reporters on the show, and finished her six-week stint on TNT.
  • My voice teacher returned home and while on the plane, she loaded a text message on my phone asking how was my birthday. I giggled and we spoke but she was awaiting to disembark the plane, pick up her luggage, and await the site of her home (and her cats).
  • A report Tuesday on Fox News confirmed that the fringe environmentalists have a bigger lobby than the oil companies. No wonder they are controlling our energy policy banning drilling for oil, lightbulbs, and family cars in recent energy acts passed.
  • Common sense in legislatures is that the legislators are supposed to serve their constituents, and not fringe radical Marxists. What does it say when the Michigan legislators, knowing the struggles of their Big Three automakers, decide to betray their own constituents and instead pass legislation designed to ban the family car and trucks that they produce, and favour the microcars of Germany and Japan? In fact, the de facto President (Pelosi) and her left-hand man (Reid) came to the ceremony that passed their “energy act” that couldn't be vetoed because of the supermajority vote in a Japanese hybrid.
  • On the other hand, when Pennsylvania-based Comcast found foul play in the NFL's Sunday Ticket DirecTV monopoly, they went to Arlen Specter, who has come to defend his own constituent against the NFL's concept. In each case, the legislators had a choice of either helping or hurting their constituents. The Michigan legislators (Dingell, Stabenow, Levin) chose to sell out to Tokyo and also the huge Marxist-Leninist environmentalist lobby and hurt their own constituents in GM, Ford, and Chrysler. The Pennsylvania legislator (Specter) chose to defend his own constituent, Comcast.
  • Does it seem the MOVEON.ORG Revolution of 2006 has led to the inflation problems thanks to their refusal to drill for oil and too the mandate that our food be used as inefficient alcohol fuel instead of food? Consider that most of the corn used is not for grains now but to make the booze under federal “renewable fuel” standards. Get rid of the inefficient Gaia worshipper-written “Energy Independence and Security Act” which should be called the “Pelosi Environmentalist Anti-American High Inflation Act”. The fuel provision is behind the increase in the cost of food, and the legislators, who sold their souls to the environmentalists, refuse to understand that, preferring to go by their feelings.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Wish I'd Written That

By Mitchell

"Ozzy Osbourne and family get their own musical comedy series this September [on Fox]. My advice - just air reruns of The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour."

Billy Ingram, TVParty!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Life Lessons from George Michael

By Kristin

I had the honor of attending the long anticipated, American tour of famed singer/songwriter George Michael at the Xcel Energy Center. It is easy to see how he has remained popular over the past 25 years with his catchy songs and great stage presence. Because I am not an avid George Michael fan (I got tickets for free), I was able to appreciate the show on a different level than people who have emotionally attached themselves to the artist for years and years. I would like to share three life lessons that I learned from George Michael:

1. The key to lasting success is having catchy songs early in career. This will ensure instant popularity and a large fan base. If you can hook them in early enough, people will identify their early childhood, awkward adolescence, crazy college years or even midlife – rock music inspired life crisis. Before you know it, your music has become Muzak (that last conclusion was courtesy of a fellow concert go-er, Katie). The ultimate result, fans will begin to sing all of your songs for you at any public venue, making you’re job as a rock star much easier. Not to mention all of the royalties you will be earning because of the commercials your music now endorses.

2. There is such a thing as being too literal. The stage setup was quite spectacular. Imagine a giant stage with a huge television running from the backdrop down to the very front of the stage. During the sets, images of dollar signs, hearts, diamonds and other figures were displayed according to the song. While there were some abstract images, most were incredibly literal. When George Michael sang about not knowing what to do about a particular love interest, giant question marks flew across the screen. The overtly literal imagery was comical, taking me out of that magical moment.

3. Make sure you know the city you are in. I understand the difficulty that comes with traveling across country and not knowing exactly where you are. However, from what I understand about people from Minneapolis or St. Paul, each are extremely particular about their city and at no point wish to be confused with one another. So if you ever find yourself in front of a crowd of 10,000 people in St. Paul, under no circumstances is it ok to yell, “How are we doing Minneapolis.” You will not likely get a warm response.

In addition to these three life lessons, I left the arena with the song “Freedom” stuck in my head for the rest of the night. I would say I made out pretty well.

The Body Politic

By Drew

So Jesse Ventura has apparently decided against a run for the U.S. Senate, which spares taxpayers the burden of having to fumigate the Senate chamber after every session, in much the same way it was necessary to fumigate Minnesota after the conclusion of Ventura’s term as governor.

We don’t generally launch into ad hominem attacks on this site, but in the case of Ventura it is almost impossible to seriously discuss his place in politics without engaging in an “argument against the man.” For Jesse Ventura has probably done more than anyone in the last fifty years, excluding perhaps David Duke, to demean and degrade the profession of politics in this country. And that says a lot, considering the base level to which politics has fallen. It has little to do with Ventura’s own politics – I’m not sure I can actually recall any – and everything to do with Ventura the man.

It is true that politics today is filled with personal invective, fringe elements spreading paranoia and conspiracy with every breath. It is the case that politicians are viewed with suspicion and are accused of dishonesty, of corruption, of waffling and distorting to please the latest special interest group. All of this is undeniable, which might lead one to ask how this wrestler could possibly make things worse. And yet he does, by his very presence in the body politic.

For in addition to the already-present traits of corruption and graft, dishonesty and deceit, selfishness and narrow-mindedness, Jesse Ventura adds the qualities of bigotry and bullying, of crudity and uncouthness, gracelessness and incivility and a host of personal charms that demean not only himself but anyone who is forced to listen to him.

If, as Ventura claims, he is more representative of “the people” than other politicians, then it is our lowest and basest instincts which he so crudely represents, the uncivilized qualities which we like to think can be overcome in a civilized society. Ventura, the man who once scorned religion as a crutch for weak people, does not appeal to our higher nature, does not encourage us to rise to the level of the angels, but instead reduces us to the base level of animals. He is the country bumpkin, the crazy uncle who embarrasses you at every family gathering, the relative for whom you’re always offering apologies. There are no brakes, no restraints, none of the refinements which human beings like to think we’ve developed in the time since the primordial slime. He is the very representation of the knuckle-dragging troglodyte that conservatives are (mistakenly) so often portrayed. His appeal is to the qualities in ourselves which we must work at the hardest to rise above, which we can do only with the very graces which the wrestler ridicules.

We can never know what resides in Ventura's heart, nor would we dare to speculate. To suggest that he is incapable of individual acts of kindness and intelligence would be absurd. We can only observe his public behavior, his words and deeds, and note them accordingly. Nor can we avoid repsonsibility for his election, for whether we voted for him or not, we all share in that responsibility. Ventura is a creature of our own making. "His blood be on us and our children," and in that way we are as responsible for what Ventura hath wrought as he is.

It could even be plausibly argued that much of his boorish behavior is no more than a clever act, bread and circuses for the masses. If so, then it’s an act that no longer entertains (if it ever did), and honors neither him nor us.

Cromwell dismissed the rump Parliament with the famous words, “In the name of God, go” and those words could apply equally to Ventura. “Go already!” we might add to the man whose cloying, “will he or won’t he” political machinations make Brett Farve look positively decisive by comparison.

If this sounds harsh it is, because Jesse Ventura has made politics an infinitely harsher game by his very presence. And we are infinitely better off without him.

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Single-Bullet Theory Revisited

By Drew

Apropos of yesterday's post referencing the Kennedys is this story from Fox News (courtesy Media Blog at NRO) that you gotta love:

POTTER VALLEY, Calif. — A Mendocino County woman who was trying to kill mice in her trailer with a gun ended up shooting herself and another person.

The 43-year-old woman pulled out her .44-caliber Magnum revolver after she saw the mice scurrying across the floor of her trailer on Highway 20 in Potter Valley, sheriff's officials said.

But she accidentally dropped the gun, which went off as it struck the floor. The bullet went through the woman's kneecap, bounced off the keys sitting on the belt loop of a 42-year-old man in the trailer and grazed the man's groin before ending up in his coin pocket.

Authorities did not release the shooting victims' names.

The mice escaped the shooting unharmed.

Now clearly, this "single-bullet theory" is a fabrication, designed to cover-up a conspiracy. After all, we all know there is no way that one bullet could pass through the woman's kneecap, graze the man's groin, and wind up pristine in his coin pocket. It's just not possible. Notice that the shooting victims are not named. And notice also that the mice escaped the shooting unharmed.

Something funny is going on here. If I were Potter Valley police officials, I'd make sure to check the grassy knoll in the woman's back yard for any trace of mouse droppings or other evidence pointing to a second gunmouse. Until this gunmouse's links to the FBI, the CIA, the Bush White House, the McCain campaign, the President of Halliburton, and Rush Limbaugh have been thoroughly exposed, we are all living a lie.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Murky Waters

By Drew

Does a demon beckon?
Do you follow?
Do you turn aside, mashing your fists into your eyes?

You won't know until it beckons. To you. So long as it temps others you can judge - can sneer - can express shock, disgust, outrage, and prim disdain - the usual emotions of punitive people. But you won't know. I didn't.
Joyce Carol Oates, The Assassins


As enigmatic as the above is, it becomes a perfect representation of the enigmatic, prolific Joyce Carol Oates. She can be brilliantly crystalline in one moment, maddeningly opaque and pretentious in another.

Oates understands as well as anyone that the Kennedys have become a modern American myth, in much the same way as Paul Bunyan and King Arthur. Often critics of the Kennedys use the word “myth” as a substitute for “fiction,” and certainly the “Camelot” of the early 60s is as much fairy tale as reality. However, Oates uses the mythology as part history, part legend, part folklore – a story that has become so ingrained in the American consciousness that it acts as shorthand for a host of emotions, memories, and meanings, symbolic as well as real. In recasting and retelling the Kennedy story in its various components, Oates allows her characters to display aspects of this mythology, using it as background to the story at hand, without having to start from scratch.

The above selection is from her 1975 novel The Assassins, her first go at the mythos of the Kennedy family. The Assassins is the story of the Petrie family in the wake of the assassination of the man around whom the family revolved, the overpowering Andrew. The storytellers are the three most strongly affected by Andrew: his brothers Hugh and Stephen; and his young widow Yvonne. This can’t be seen as a word-for-word comparison to the Kennedy clan; the Andrew is a right-wing commentator and former U.S. Senator (rather than a Democratic president), the father a former judge (instead of a bootlegger), the family itself Episcopalian rather than Catholic (except for Stephen, a convert), and from New York instead of Massachusetts. That being said, it would also be impossible to look at the triumvirate of survivors and not see the shadow of America’s royal family.

However, Oates deals far more directly with myth in her 1992 novella Black Water, her retelling of Chappaquiddick, which gives us all the elements we need: a girl (Kelly Kelleher), a U.S. Senator (“The Senator”) who’s had a bit too much to drink, a car, and a body of water. The rest, as we all know, is history.

And it should be noted that one of the fascinating aspects of Black Water is that it takes place in a world populated by the real-life Kennedys and their real-life history, although the real-life Chappaquiddick is never mentioned (understandably). There are references to the Kennedys (especially Bobby) as well as Ronald Reagan and George Bush (who is president at the time of the book’s events), and the Gulf War is as much a part of history as the Vietnam War. The basic story is the same, however; to the extent that Oates’ take on things describe what really happened, “The Senator” certainly does not come out looking very good. He’s a married man coming on to a young woman, a drunk who causes the accident thanks to his reckless driving, and a coward who not only flees the scene of the accident without trying to rescue Kelly, but also lies to his friend as to the cause of the fatal crash.

Oates may argue that she is not attempting a thinly disguised retelling of Chappaquiddick, instead presenting the "archetypal" story "of a young woman taken advantage of by an older man, but it serves as a damning indictment of Teddy nonetheless. (Anyone too young to remember Chappaquiddick would do well to read this novella, regardless of whether or not it’s really about Ted, and then ask themselves once again why this Kennedy was never elected president.)

If you’ve tried JCO in the past and been intimidated by her, Black Water is a good place to visit. If you’ve never read Oates at all, then you could do worse than to begin here. Oates prose has rarely been more clear, more powerful. Her hypnotic repetition of phrases, her relentless portrayal of Kelly’s misplaced belief in the Senator, her ability to tell the familiar story and still have you hoping for a different conclusion, all work to produce a work that is ultimately quite moving. We feel the claustrophobia she must feel as she is trapped in the sinking car, we feel her hope (and ours) ebbing away as the water continues to rise, we see her dying before our very eyes. There is always something disturbing, gut-wrenching, about a work such as this – whether in opera, on stage, in movies, or through the written word. You are presented a life that is seen in happier, more innocent times, and yet know that the story will not end happily ever after.

For there is no happy ending to Black Water, just as there was no happy ending for Mary Jo Kopechne. And ultimately, there was no happy ending for Ted Kennedy, either. He survived the disaster, true, in a way neither of his brothers did. He survived politically, if you consider his continual reelection to the U.S. Senate by the people of Massachusetts. But he was never elected president, never won the fame and devotion that Jack and Bobby did.

Perhaps worst of all for Edward M. Kennedy, he has been forced to live with the memory of what happened on that bridge for the rest of his life, a life that now appears to be in its last act. We can never truly know what happened that night, although we are not prevented from drawing conclusions based on the evidence at hand. We can never truly know what goes on in the heart and conscience of Ted Kennedy; we can only consider his public words and acts over the years and filter them through our own sensibilities. We can surmise, though, that lesser men might have chosen death rather than to live with such a haunting memory.

Indeed, the real world haunts each and every page of Black Water, as the words of Joyce Carol Oates haunt those who read it. Of a novelist, the reader can ask little more.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Fat Lady Sings for Dan Cook

By Bobby

San Antonio Express-News columnist Dan Cook died last week at 81. But one of the most famous catchphrases in the world that even has classical music fans wondering, was his own signature.

When at KENS-TV in the Texas city from 1956-2000 (a 44-year career; it even makes WCSC-TV's Bill Sharpe look like a puppy with 35 years at the Charleston station; his long-time sports partner was dumped after 30 years and ended up doing news at a cross-Cooper River rival; his weatherman died and the station's current building is on a road named for that man), Mr. Cook referred to an NBA playoff series between the Spurs and Bullets (at the time the Texas teams were in the East and Chicago in the West; the geographic illiteracy was fixed when Dallas was added in 1980) as not to be too giddy after an early lead by saying, “The opera ain't over till the fat lady sings.”

This phrase has become a "Familiar Quotation."

So indeed, the "fat lady sings" for Dan Cook, the man who gave us a Wagnerian approach to sports.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Our Fourth of July

By Kristin

Over the past few months, I have been extremely patriotic. Some may say over-patriotic. I have been to the Historical Society, watched HBO’s John Adams and sang along with 1776: The Musical. There is a central theme that ran through all three of these events that made this past Fourth of July an particularly meaningful one. All three events, to a certain degree, revolved around the Declaration of Independence, the document written by Thomas Jefferson stating the Congresses’ grievances against King George and its reasons for separation. What was left such an impact on the presentation of the Declaration during all three activities was how powerful the document became when it was read aloud, a far cry from the dry, silent readings I remember from my school days. I am ashamed to admit that throughout my history studies, even through my college years, never had I listened to the Declaration in its entirety until recently.

I am fortunate to have some wonderful friends in working in wonderful jobs that allow for some wonderful experiences. A few month ago, the Minnesota Historical Society was home to one of the original printed copies of the Declaration of Independence. I was fortunate enough to be invited by a friend to a sneak peak at the event. There was no glamorous set up. No red carpet to the document. Only a single docent standing ready to answer any questions we had about anything remotely related to American History. Standing in front of the page was truly amazing. This printed copy, which looks strikingly different from the handwritten page many of us are used to seeing, looked only slightly warn, baring the familiar signatures of the Continental Congress, dominated by that of John Hancock. It was truly a unique experience to see one of the original copies. After studying the page for a few minutes, I ventured down to a lower level where there had been a few banners set up in honor of the visiting display. Near one of the tables, there was a small television playing a video featuring a large handful of rather famous Hollywood personalities reciting lines from the Declaration. Although the actors would have no problem making the readings seem larger than life, there was no need; they read the Declaration with out excess pomp relying on the words to convey the emotion. This was truly successful. I stood mesmerized by the words I was hearing, imaging the courage it had taken the writer, along with the signers, to support the words on the page.

Watching John Adams and 1776, were no less effective in their efforts to give the Declaration life. While neither recited the Declaration completely, what they did was to give a sense of urgency to its creation and support by the Congress. It is one thing to read in history books about the desperate times in the American Colonies in the 1770’s, but it is quite another to see them as though you have an exclusive CNN coverage of the rebellion against the British Empire. And, it is another thing entirely to see the debates and arguments being sung and danced out as sort of West Side Story for colonial times. While John Adams and 1776 each took a completely different approach to how they addressed the Declaration’s creation, both were able to illustrate the power of its words and what it truly meant to declare independence.

After hearing the Declaration of Independence I am reminded of why I study history. This document is not one that is to be read to oneself. In order to fully appreciate the weight and tone it must be read out loud. Most of the population in colonial America were illiterate, or had very low reading level. That is why it sounds so much more powerful being read aloud. I have challenged myself to read, out loud, the Declaration in preparation for next year’s celebration.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Peachtree vs Nathan's Famous

By Bobby

Sometimes you have to wonder what happens in the wild world of Independence Day events.

A crowd estimated at 40,000 attended Coney Island's legendary Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest XCIII to watch 20 gurgitators attempt to swallow as many frankfurters in their mouths in a span of ten minutes. A million more watched ESPN to hear Paul Page and Richard Shea call the action of this contest.

Meanwhile, in Atlanta, a few thousand people (including many on the side of the hospital) were on the side of the road in Buckhead and Midtown to watchover 55,000 (including myself for the first time) run from Lenox Square Mall to Ponce de Leon Avenue (instead of Piedmont Park because of drought conditions) in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Peachtree Road Race XXXIX. Part of the coverage was on the Fox affiliate (WAGA-5) in Atlanta but that was it. It was a day for 54,500 commoners and 500 elite athletes to run the biggest running event in the country.

I wonder which one was better off -- the 40,000 to watched 20 swallow as many frankfurters in ten minutes, or the 55,000 who ran past Cardiac Hill (yes, there is a hospital near that hill) and the Olympic Mile (much of the Peachtree course on Peachtree Avenue was used for the 1996 Olympic marathon; it can be traced on Thanksgiving during The Weather Channel Atlanta Marathon and Half Marathon, which retraces much of the Olympic course).

I must say as a five-time marathon finisher, and someone who has run two major 10K's in the Southeast (Cooper River Bridge Run, Mount Pleasant to Charleston, and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Peachtree Road Race) that the Peachtree was worth it. A family member told me she couldn't stand to have lunch after watching the hot eating contest on ESPN.

And oh, by the way: Bobby's time for the AJC Peachtree was 1:17:19, hand-timed because it is not scored legally. That time would easily be better than my first two Cooper River Bridge Runs in Charleston, also a 10K though flatter.

Friday, July 4, 2008

The Glorious Fourth

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

July 4, 1776

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Environmentalists and Socialised Oil Companies To Blame for Economic Crisis and High Oil Prices

By Bobby

One of the biggest controversies in the country has been the excessive cost of oil, and especially of gasoline, with the cost of gasoline reaching over the dollar per litre range, and E10 hitting slightly under it. In reading an article in the May 24 edition of The Washington Times, they noted that dictatorships in Venezuela (Hugo Chávez), Iran, Russia, and other such countries, not firms such as Exxon Mobil, British Petroleum, Total (France), and Chevron, have control of the oil fields worldwide. Combined, the major private oil companies (Exxon Mobil, British Petroleum, Chevron, Total, ConocoPhillips, Royal Dutch) have only seven percent of the world's oil fields. Most oil fields worldwide belong to state-run companies, as over 20% is owned by Saudi Arabia's nationalised oil company, 10% each for Iran and Iraq national oil companies, and considerable stakes (more than the Big Five private oil companies combined) by the Venezuelan (Petroleos de Venezuela dba Citgo), Russian (Gazprom, Yukos, Lukoil), and Communist Chinese (Sinopec, CNOOC, PetroChina) national oil companies.

When the state-run monopolies nationally hold control of considerable oil stakes (a clear majority) instead of the private firms, they can impose strict standards that help protect their nation's interest at the expense of commoners, such as those who own shares in the the six major firms listed. Forced nationalisation of oil companies since the 1990's has created an unfriendly atmosphere for private oil companies to drill and find new resources, as the government monopolies in Russia, Venezuela, and Iran want high prices to fund social and political causes. In Russia's case it is for state workers. In Venezuela, it is to subsidise their 12-cent per gallon gas, and in other dictatorships in Central and South America, it is to help fund their military, especially to attack the Free World, as they are aligned with the Venezuelan dictator.

In order to keep prices high, the national oil companies reduce production and refuse to invest in new technologies to develop more oil fields. Combine that with over 35 years of energy policy in the United States that has been in control of the environmentalist movement that has been called by Czech Republic President Václav Klaus as one of the biggest dangers relating to the economy, and you can understand why the price of oil, and gasoline, has been excessively high as the perfect storm of nationalised oil companies' intent to keep supply down with high demand to fund socialist causes, especially to attack free nations worldwide, and the environmentalist movement's “save Mother Earth,” bans on energy development (such as offshore and ANWR oil drilling) movement, aka Gaia Worship, has combined to but the kibosh on oil.

The environmentalist movement's sham of an energy act in 2007 is a reason food costs have increased, as the grains that would be used for food has instead been forced to produce ethanol to comply with alcohol in fuel mandates that do not work. My truck has lost over 10% in fuel economy because of E10, and we have had to replace the carburetor in our Husqvarna lawn mower because of E10 corrosion (please note that Husqvarna has a lawn tractor plant just eight miles from home). The local boat dealer sells gasoline, and he informs his customers that the ethanol mix does not work with two-cycle engines or marine equipment, and E10 hurts the marine equipment he sells because of the corrosion. Furthermore, ethanol mixed with gasoline destroys the primary reason ethanol is used as a fuel – high compression engines with compression ratios that cannot be used with gasoline engines and also safety. (General Motors' Saab BioPower engine can run with compression ratios in the 12:1 range with ethanol only; with any mix of gasoline and ethanol, the compression drops down into the 8:1 range because of the octane levels. The deaths of Sachs and MacDonald in the 1964 Indy 500 led to a ban on gasoline at the race because of the survivability of Johnny Rutherford in an alcohol-fuel car in that crash despite leaking alcohol.)

The environmentalists are winning the war now. Making the world's Big Two automakers Toyota and Honda, with their minicars, destroying American automakers who rely on larger vehicles, and even destroying businesses and industry that need pickup trucks, vans, and sport-utility vehicles for their business use by forcing automakers to cease those vehicles in favour of microcars that cannot even fit a family of four, is part of the agenda of the environmentalist movement that wants to destroy businesses to support their green world which is actually pushing the nation back to Communism.

When you see the high cost of fuel now, you can clearly put the blame on a mix of socialist oil companies run by governments who wish to advance a social agenda for their nation by making other people worldwide paying for it and an environmentalist movement aimed at destroying businesses worldwide with their “green movement” in an attempt to have the rest of the free world to submit to the same socialist and Communist causes.

Full Disclosure: Mr. Chang owns shares in the following oil-related companies: Exxon Mobil (XOM), Ashland (ASH), Marathon Oil (MRO), Murphy Oil (MUR), and Transocean (RIG).

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The British Are So Funny

By Kristin

As we approach the birth of our nation, let us take time to discuss something that is not quite American, British humor. For the country that was once ruled over the United States, it is interesting that often Americans do not understand or appreciate the finer points of what makes the English man laugh. Perhaps it was our need to distance ourselves from the homeland that encouraged us to develop a very different sense of humor. Or, it might be the influence of the rugged west that struck our funny bone. But so many times, I have watched people sit down in front of BBC to watch a British television show, only to stare blankly at the screen as the laugh track rolls by.

I recently finished the first season of the British comedy, The Black Adder, a comedy about Edmund, the younger son of Richard IV and his adventures in 15th century England. I found the show to be amusing but not laugh out loud funny. However, there was one scene towards the end of the season that I believe embodies the three main components of British humor: Men dressing in women’s clothing, or very feminine clothing, overtly sexual women and incredibly awkward situations. This scene provides excellent examples of all three components. To briefly set the scene, The Black Adder, Edmund, has been betrothed to the princess of Spain in order to secure an alliance between the two kings against the French. While the older brother, Henry, has a rather long list of beautiful to-be-brides, Edmund’s Spanish bride is not a fair princess. In fact, she is very ugly. Edmund devises a plan to disgust the princess an hopefully end the engagement by dressing up in bright colors and gaudy makeup as to appear so feminine that the princess will believe Edmund to be gay and want to call off the marriage. Unfortunately, his plan fails and the princess can not keep her hands off him. Meanwhile, the princess’s translator, reciting her continued devotion to Edmund as though the feelings were his own, and the laugh track rolls on. Thus follows the scene to study.

A) Men dressing in women’s clothing – We might find the origins of this feature to originate from Elizabethan theater where men took the rolls of women on stage and dressed as such. Once women were allowed to participate in productions, the practice of men dressed up as women was no longer a necessity, but became humorous. Perhaps it is a reaction to how now it seems ridiculous to prohibit women from being on stage and having men perform all their parts.

B) Sex-crazed women – This may be a reaction to the Victorian era where women were dressed from head to toe in order to prevent even the slightest hint of sexuality. Now that these restrictions have been deemed socially unacceptable by modern society, this may be a way to, as with the previous point, help alleviate any uncomfortable feelings from women’s sexual repression.

C) Unbelievably awkward situations – This is just an attempt to distract from their impossibly bad dental hygiene.

Watching The Black Adder provided great examples of British humor. There are other programs that have made it across the Atlantic to our TV’s that have become a little popular with American audiences, The Office (the British one), Extras, maybe other ones. But until we learn to appreciate the absolute hilarity of a man in pantyhose and a dress, we will never see eye to eye or laugh to laugh.

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