Harmony and whatnot

I'll be playing bass in a production of "Hair" in Park Slope, Brooklyn on Friday, subbing in for the regular bassist, who can't make it for that show. It's the same theater where I played in "Chess" a year and a half ago. So, this afternoon I went to see a performance.

Has anybody seen this show? The music is good, but the story itself, and the lyrics to some extent, I thought were just grating. To me it looked like spoiled middle-class white kids (with a few middle-class black kids thrown in) who like to talk about themselves endlessly and pretend to love everybody, while only associating with people exactly like them. It felt decadent and fake. I might be going out on a limb, but it reminded me of one of those 18th-century French court dramas where everybody says witty things and sleeps with everyone else, before the townspeople eventually storm in and chop off everyone's heads.

Granted, the chopping of heads here is done in the form of the Vietnam war draft, so you could say they really are victims, as opposed to just victims of their own excesses. But I wouldn't say they come off like heroes either, since they're all so childish. The small plot there is involves the main character being drafted: he talks about leaving the country or pretending to be gay in front of the draft board, but then strangely he does no such thing. I can't explain it, though clearly if he had trucked it down to Toronto at the end the story wouldn't have had much of an emotional punch.

The main character to me personifies what's wrong with the show, which is that, besides having a few black hippies singing about racism, there's no attempt to disguise the fact that what we're seeing is rich kids "slumming". In the song "Manchester, England", which is repeated several times, the main character sings "I'm a genius"; at a different point he confesses something to the effect of "all I really want to do is make a lot of money" (it sounds unbelievable but that's what he says). Certainly being a twerp shouldn't be a crime punishable by being shipped off to shoot at Southeast Asians, but on the other hand it doesn't form much of an emotional core for a drama either.

Anyway, I'll be doing that on Friday. None of this is a knock on the cast or the musicians, who were all good, some I think at Broadway level. Plus, as people probably know, there's a nude scene, which is played according to the book; the band plays onstage, so I should have a better vantage point than I did sitting in the audience. And thankfully the bass part is pretty manageable. So it should be fun.

By the way, I'd give a time and location to see it but the show is amazingly already sold out for the rest of its run.

Bad news, good news

Well, it looks like Osama bin Laden is alive. I am pissed off because I really thought he was dead (along with many other people), the main argument in our favor being that he hadn't released a verifiably new videotape since 2001.

I don't want to get into whether this video helps or hurts Bush or Kerry, since I don't think it'll have a serious impact. Also, the video was obviously timed to influence the election at the last minute in some way, and if that fucker manages to sway the vote by even one percentage in either direction then it's a loss for all of us as far as I'm concerned.

That said, and even though I wish he were dead, there's some positive news. Belmont Club (via Instapundit) explains it:
He has stopped talking about the restoration of the Global Caliphate. There is no more mention of the return of Andalusia. There is no more anticipation that Islam will sweep the world. He is no longer boasting that Americans run at the slightest wounds; that they are more cowardly than the Russians. He is not talking about future operations to swathe the world in fire but dwelling on past glories. He is basically saying if you leave us alone we will leave you alone. Though it is couched in his customary orbicular phraseology he is basically asking for time out.

Talk of an Islamic empire and global jihad has been replaced with... bizarrely enough, election fraud in Florida, the PATRIOT Act, and "My Pet Goat". The 9/11 attacks were the Islamists' greatest moment, when it looked like they could crush "the infidels" right where they live: in the three years since the Islamists have instead seen Al Qaeda's major operations bases destroyed, the one country that practiced strict Islamic law (Afghanistan) reconstructed into a free democracy, terrorist ally Libya disarm itself voluntarily, and Iraq transform from an anti-American and anti-Israel state to a free, pro-America, near-democracy.

And now, we have convincing proof to those who said that Bush's foreign policy was actually a benefit to Al-Qaeda, in that it supposedly inflamed the Arab world against America: here's Osama bin Laden himself, trying to declare a truce with Americans, and sounding less like Saladin and more like some over-earnest college professor with anti-Bush stickers on his Volvo.

It's certainly food for thought. Though, as a I said before, given the timing of this release I sincerely hope it doesn't influence anyone's vote.

UPDATE: Jesse Walker: "At least he didn't mention Kyoto."


The curse is broken

Congratulations to all this site's readers who are Red Sox fans, by the way - they finally did it. I used to be a Bosox fan myself, back growing up in the MA, so I can understand the celebration.

Here are my full sports loyalties, if anyone's wondering:

See, everybody gets something!

To get a sense of how committed a fan I am, take the normal fan's interest and divide by about 80.

Caption this photo


Here's my $1.05

I have some other reviews to get through, but I wanted to mention "Team America: World Police", which I saw over the weekend, now that everyone is else is talking about it, or at least Jessica is. Well... I liked it. I'm not all that into parodies, and this one, at least for the first half, was basically a parody of bombastic action movies, or maybe just "Top Gun", plus "The Thunderbirds", a marionette TV show from the 60's (which I only know from spoofs on SNL). But with immaculate sets and lighting.

I admit it was great to see someone finally making fun of America's clueless celebrities, and of Kim Jong-Il, who's such an insane, evil man that you'd think he'd be a ripe target for humor. In the 40's the culture routinely made fun of Hitler and Mussolini - how come the South Park guys are the only entertainers now willing to go after Saddam and Lil' Kim?

The one part of the movie that really struck me was the South-Park-style speech at the end. It was to the effect that, yes, America's military power can be lumbering and clumsy and tends to sometimes accidentally kill innocent people, but in the end it's the only thing defending the law-abiding people of the world from dictators and terrorists. It reminded me of a George Orwell quote: "People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf." It happened to be said in a very scatological way, but the message was clear.

I did like the songs, especially that "Freedom Isn't Free" country song, because you just know some ultra-patriotic song is going to be a country song. It was the only one of the song parodies that felt like the real thing could have been written today.

"It was Barzini all along"

There's a famous scene in The Godfather where Vito Corleone tells Michael that at his (Vito's) funeral, the first person to talk to Michael and suggest a meeting will be the one who wants to break the truce and kill Michael.

I'm reminded of this by the current "400 tons of explosives" brouhaha, a story which has been around for over a year, possibly concocted (in that it's possible the explosives were moved out from under the IAEA's nose) and has no reason to appear now except that it's a week before the election and it hurts Bush.

So, these are pretty much the optimal conditions for the test: whichever supposedly unbiased sources are going for this story must be the ones that are out to derail Bush by any means possible, and that's... Mohammed ElBaradei of the IAEA (who "revealed" the issue to the press), and the New York Times and CBS News/60 Minutes.

There's interesting speculation at National Review that ElBaradei wants Kerry as president because he wants to keep his job. But the NY Times and 60 Minutes are the only two news outfits that jumped on this arbitrary and possibly bogus story as soon as it came out, and to me that means they're no longer credible as objective news sources. If they even were at this point.


I often quote myself, it adds spice to my conversation

Here's what I said last month about the non-impact of Bush AWOL stories:
...everyone knows he was a layabout for pretty much the entire decade of the 70's: it's part of his accepted "life story" and it's already factored into his support.

Same with the latest revelations about Kerry's lies, this time that he claimed to have met with the "entire [UN] security council" two years ago when he probably met with none of them... Karol puts it this way:
Kerry is running as the pro/anti war candidate, the pro/anti Patriot Act candidate, the pro/anti abortion candidate, the pro/anti gay marriage candidate, the pro/anti No Child Left Behind candidate, the war hero/anti-war activist candidate and y'all think that this is going to make a dent? Kerry lied. If people are still voting for him after all of the above, this news is going to be greeted with a big 'who the hell cares, he's not George W. Bush'.

More specifically, this one fits into what seems to be the standard template for Kerry's fibs, which is that he has to place himself physically at the center of the drama. It's not good enough that Nixon ordered illegal raids into Cambodia during the Vietnam War, for instance: Kerry must have himself been sent on such a raid. He had to be there personally for the infamous Game 6 of the '86 World Series. And he had to have personally "met foreign leaders" who told him they support him over Bush (it's very doubtful that there was a physical meeting).

So, this looks like more of the same. Maybe it's some narcissistic tendency on his part that he feels he has to have been there for all the important events, but at this point I figure it's already factored into his poll numbers.

Video Bargainville

Soviet Panda links to a bunch of free music video downloads available on iTunes. Makes sense: videos are basically a commercial for the artist and their single/album, so there's no reason why every record label shouldn't just put all their artists' videos out online for free download.

Anyway, two of the videos are pretty awesome. The Strokes' "The End Has No End" is a good tune, and it features Jackie/Mila Kunis from That 70's Show along with two other actresses that I should probably recognize. There's a neat trick of showing the notes of the music as it's being played on the top and bottom of the screen. The one on the top is the lead guitar part; the one on the bottom, though, doesn't seem to correspond directly to anything in the music. Maybe it's supposed to be the drum part.

Kings of Conveniences's "I'd Rather Dance With You" is the real highlight. I'd heard the song before but I didn't really get it until I saw the video. The Kings of Convenience have updated their sound by going from an early-70's folk kind of thing to mid-80's pop. Which, interestingly, is basically what Belle and Sebastian did on their last album, "Dear Catastrophe Waitress". The 80's revival is complete! I should note that the Strokes video is set in 1989, according to the captions, but it sounds modern.

"I'd Rather Dance With You" features Erlend, looking kicking in an Adidas tracksuit, teaching a class of young ballerinas how to do some basic rock moves. The song, and the look of the video, and maybe the Scandinavian accent, all take me back to watching A-Ha videos in 1985. What, you thought they only had that one song? Your loss.

You have to have iTunes installed to see these, but you can download that for free.

UPDATE: A Google search reveals you can also seem them here and here, no iTunes necessary.


Notes from Israel

Shai of Shaister notes the 10th anniversary of suicide bombings in Israel. On a more positive note, check out the whole site - he also has some very nice, nostalgia-inducing photos from Jerusalem, and an analysis of Israeli war movies, including everybody's favorite, the 1987 "Blues HaHofesh HaGadol/Late Summer Blues".

Quote of the day

QandO's Jon Henke has a post defending his earlier controversial (with his readers) decision to vote "none of the above" in the presidential election. I mention it only because he includes this quote, from Milton Friedman's "Free to Choose":
"The defunct Socialist Party has been the most successful political party of this century, since all of its 1928 platform was ultimately incorporated into national law."


International underground, thunder pounds

Bill Clinton now wants to be secretary-general of the United Nations in 2006 (via Drudge Report). "He definitely wants to do it," says an "insider".

This may surprise some people, but I hope it happens. Until such a time as the UN can be dismantled, it might as well have good leadership. Regardless of his flaws, Bubba would represent U.S. interests. And someone with 8 years experience running a superpower is naturally a better leader than an unelected bureaucrat who has loyalties only to the endless chatter of the "diplomatic community".

The article claims G.W. Bush, if re-elected, would not allow it (because Clinton is American, Bush would have to be the one nominating him), but my guess is Bush and/or his advisors would follow the same logic I have. Plus, if Clinton publicly stated his desire to it, it would be hard for whoever was president to turn him down.

So, go Clinton. That's if anything comes of it... wasn't he going to become Chancellor of Oxford at some point? And have his own talk show? And run for mayor of New York?

Seriously, too bad

I, too, wish Nick Drake were touring this year.


Small mystery solved

Well, that explains it:
It's an old (and not inaccurate) joke among policy-style debaters that every round must, ultimately, come down to the threat of nuclear war. Even if the debate's about pension reform or agricultural subsidies, one team will find a way to argue that the other side's proposal must inevitably bring about a global thermonuclear holocaust. (Hence the title of R.E.M.'s "It's the End of the World as We Know It," supposedly inspired by Michael Stipe's visit to a policy debate "tournament of lies" and sung in the high-speed style of a policy debater spreading.)

I thought all debating eventually ended with the Nazis, but I guess this is a different debating world. Different competition styles, you know how it is.

On a somewhat related note, I actually, at one point, knew all the words to the song. Why? I don't know.

The latest spin

Last week, John Edwards made people remember he was running for vice president after he told a crowd that John Kerry's promised federal funding of stem-cell research would ensure that crippled peopled would be able to get up out of that wheelchair and walk again."

Now true-believer Edwards, who's running to be a skiing accident away from leader of the free world, tops himself by saying of George W. Bush that "He's created something that didn't exist before the war in Iraq — he’s created a haven for terrorists."

This is transparently false to anyone who thinks about it for more than 10 seconds. I can think of at least 5 countries, and one set of "territories", that at this very moment provide safe haven, and in some cases funding. That's not to mention the pre-war Iraq itself, home of Abu Nidal and others.

Now I wonder if this is how Edwards got his success as a lawyer - throw out damning but unsubstantiated facts at the jury, and hope the overall impression will stick even if one or two get "objected" away. I assume it's actually easier to do in law than in politics: you can get away with more outrageous claims because the facts tend to be obscure and jurors don't have any outside information to place what they're hearing in context.

I'm not saying all lawyers are charlatans, since there are undoubtedly good ones, just that being in law could tend to reward and encourage someone who already has these tendencies to be loose with the facts.

UPDATE: Commenter Rob points out that I may have misunderstood what Edwards was saying: he might have meant "...before the war, in Iraq", meaning he's only talking about Iraq as a haven. It's variant of one of the standard Democratic attacks, and it's a less outragous statement. Though it's still untrue: before the war, Iraq was harboring Abu Nidal, along with Ansar al-Islam, al-Zarqawi, and Abdul Rahman Yasin of "'93 WTC bombing" fame. Among others.


Master in the field of hip-hop

So you're planning on throwing a party and you want a good soundtrack? If it's some kind of old-school flavor you're looking for, I recommend EPMD. I just discovered their Unfinished Business, from 1989, recently. It's got funky vintage samples and good production, and it's got the laid-back flow of Erick Sermon, one of the two rappers (he's E and the other is P MD, aka Parrish the Microphone Doctor - I guess when you're accredited you're allowed to have more letters). Erick has a delivery so laid-back that it sort of sounds like he's drunk. But the rhymes are tight: "I come correct with the context, and then next/ then flex and throw a hex on your whole complex".

They rap about all the important stuff: partying, picking up girls at parties, and generally how awesome their mic skills are.


Halliburton's closet fan

John Kerry was campaigning in Florida and discussing the flu shot shortage... can anyone explain what he meant by this? (ellipsis in original)
Let me ask you something simple: If you can’t get flu shots to the American people, how are you going to protect them against bioterrorism and all the other things? ... I’ll tell you this, if Halliburton made flu shots, there’d be more flu shots here than oranges.

It sounds to me like a strong compliment to Halliburton.

UPDATE: Mike D explains the issue in comments. See, Kerry's saying that Bush has decided to withhold flu vaccines from the American people for I guess arbitrary reasons. But if Bush's corporate friends were to profit from it, then he would have brought in the vaccines in spades.

The flu can be a fatal disease. Kerry is running for leader of the free world, and he tosses off a joke whose gist is that our current president doesn't care if the people of the United States live or die. That's how I read it, anyway.


Concert review: Ida / ZZZZ / Volcano, I'm Still Excited!! / Bishop Allen @ Northsix, Oct. 14

I went to a CMJ show last night; it was a showcase for the PolyVinyl label, whose biggest act (judging from their compilation CD) is probably Of Montreal, and who also have one of my very favorite bands, Owen. Alas, either of these were there last night.

Let me note that the show was at Northsix, in Williamsburg, one of my favorite venues in the city. Let me also note that I was only able to be there due to having been removed from a musical theater performance that was perhaps cheesy but that I wanted to be a part of. So that's that.

I was really only there to see Ida, who I've liked ever since hearing their 2000 album "Will You Find Me". It was disappointing to see that they were opening for everyone else; if this were four years ago they would have been the opening act, but it's 2004 and indie-pop is sort of dead because everybody wants to sound like Interpol or the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. There were only around 40 people there watching them, which was really too bad.

There has been some sort of lineup change since 2000, because they used to have two guys and now they only had one, plus five women. One of the women started off the set with a story about having seen John Turturro on the subway that morning, reading the New York Times. I thought that was odd because earlier that day I had read Ken Wheaton's post about seeing John Turturro on the subway that morning reading the New York Times. Seriously, no joke, that's how it happened. It was an obviously celebrity-packed car that morning.

Anyway, Ida sounded great live, with their trademark three-part harmonies. Karla Schickele thankfully is still part of the band; she's really the one I think that's always held it together. She's probably the most famous member of the band; her father is Peter Schickele of PDQ Bach, and she has her own semi-well-known side band, K.

ZZZZ (pronounced "the Z's") was a pretty good noise/ska band. When the girl sang they sounded a little like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

Volcano, I'm Still Excited!! was awesome. Self-assured lyrics, good melodies and a fantastic singer who also played organ, an instrument that I personally can't get enough of. Too bad it turned out it was their last show ever.

Bishop Allen was the one other band I had heard of before playing in the lineup, only because one of their members handed me a free demo CD of theirs about a year ago. They were dressed nicely and sounded a little Strokes-ish, but with more of a positive attitude.

There were more bands on after that but I wasn't around to see them. All in all it was a good time.

Dark ambition

I'm late on this news, maybe because I've been a bit overly obsessed with politics. but Reese Witherspoon has joined the ranks of those now sporting a darker shade of pale.

There's probably no better sign that the current brunette trend has reached its apex than Mrs. "Legally Blonde" herself getting into the act (and looking good, I must say). I know it won't last long, because America has always loved its blondes, but I'll savor this brief moment in our history when our nation's hair-color proclivities match up with my own.


Modest proposal, Robin Leach-style

Jacob Sullum at Hit and Run: "Extolling the benefits of the minimum wage last night, Kerry seemed to believe that you can create affluence by decree... If the minimum wage can work this sort of magic, why not raise it to $100 an hour? Then everyone would be well-off, with plenty of spending cash to stimulate the economy."

Sounds good. I'm getting rid of my Brita filter at home, by the way, in anticipation of my raise; it'll be all Cristal for me from now on.

I like my coffee black and my parole denied

Well, it turns out Kerry won the debate, at least according to news polls, which gave Kerry around a 15-point advantage (link via Ace of Spades). I definitely didn't call that. Who knew that promising to keep Social Security working by not changing it at all, and trying to fix the bloated public education system by throwing yet more money at it (Bush already increase funding by 50% during his term), and increasing government control of health care were such crowd-pleasing concepts?

Certainly in my home city they are, but I didn't know this love of statism extended to the rest of the country. And since I thought Bush came off as more genial, I figured he'd come out slightly ahead. Well, there goes my attempt to trust myself as an impartial observer.

(By the way, that title is a lyric from The Dismemberment Plan. I don't actually drink coffee.)


And now the end is near

Tonight was the final debate and the first one I got to see on TV (I read the transcripts of the other ones). I nearly feel asleep, honestly. They were both giving talking points straight out of the previous debates, from "Tora Bora" to "Massachusetts liberal". The second question Bob Schieffer asked was about... flu shots; it might as well have been question #741.

I can see why people rate the debates just based on how comfortable the candidates looked and sounded, because what was coming out of their mouths could have been written by someone with 10 minutes of access to their campaign websites.

I can also see why everybody usually thinks their guy won: since they just repeated their standard policy lines, if you think government should be more involved in helping citizens then you'd say Kerry won, and if you believe in tort reform and less taxes (like me) then you'd give it to Bush. I can't really see how anyone would be swayed by this.

All that said, I thought it was a draw. I thought Bush looked more relaxed and human, especially in the questions about religion and family. And I agreed with his answers more. Actually, I thought Kerry made some of the strongest arguments for Bush, by attacking Bush for not extending unemployment benefits, not increasing the minimum wage, and letting the assault weapons ban lapse. Bush should have just let Kerry keep talking, to shore up the conservative base that thinks Bush is selling out.

On a side note, I bet choosing a tie for a presidential debate is sort of like "rock, paper, scissors": you have to go with either dark red or dark blue and hope your opponent chooses the opposite. Miscalculation tonight (note classy, modern white dots on both):

Karol live-blogged the debate: "If Kerry says 'plan' one more time, I'm going to stab someone in the eye."


CMJ in New York

Notable shows at CMJ:

Wednesday, Oct. 13:

The Decembrists @ Bowery Ballroom, 10:45 PM

Thursday, Oct. 14:

Ida @ Northsix, 8 PM
Sondre Lerche @ Bowery Ballroom, 9 PM

Friday, Oct. 15:

Aesop Rock @ Bowery Ballroom, 11:45 PM
Pinback @ Irving Plaza, 11:25 PM
Sufjan Stevens @ Mercury Lounge, 12:30 AM

Saturday, Oct. 16:

Low @ Mercury Lounge, 1 AM

Other notable acts:

Parts and Labor @ Northsix, 10 PM, Oct. 15 (I mention them because I'm pretty sure one of the band members, Dan Friel, went to my high school)
Rock Four @ Acme Underground, 11:15 PM, Oct. 16 (I've already seen them once before - they're an Israeli band who sing in English and are Israel's best hope at a breakout)

The full schedule's here, if you live in New York and are into indie music.

Sit down, you're rocking the vote

I've been meaning to write about the "Rock the Vote" thing for a while now, and now there's a skirmish between South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone and actor Sean Penn about the efforts to mobilize youth. Sean Penn, as could be expected, thinks voting in 2004 is a matter of life and death: "...irresponsibility that will ultimately lead to the disembowelment, mutilation, exploitation, and death of innocent people throughout the world." The South Park guys have the better argument: "If you really don't know who you're gonna vote for, or are uninformed, or haven't really thought about it? Just stay home. Don't let people fucking shame you into going to the polls."

I'm with them. I have to pass by one of those stupid "Vote or Die" posters on the way to work every day, because P. Diddy's mom owns a restaurant right near my subway stop. "Vote or Die": it's meaningless at best, a threat of violence at worst. But all the "Rock the Vote"/"Punk the Vote" efforts are not much better (thankfully no one's tried yet to "Emo the Vote"). They all make voting out to be some civic obligation, as if the good of The Republic requires uninformed people going out to express an arbitrary choice. Yes, many people have sacrificed their lives so that every citizen would have the right to vote. But they also gave their lives so that we'd be able to, say, speak unpopular opinions freely, assemble in groups, and practice our religion. Does that mean that any day that goes by where we don't yell out political slogans, attend a demonstration, etc. is a wasted day? Of course not. I don't think I've ever exercised my first amendment rights to the fullest (I'm not much of a protestor), but I benefit every day from the fact I and everyone else have them.

Same with voting: our democracy goes on even when one person, or 50% of the people, don't vote.

Of course, the subtext of all of these initiatives is that the music-loving kids in question will go out and vote for Democrats. But I think the organizers are mistaken: polls show that Bush has his strongest numbers among the youth. It's a silly concept all the way through: try to mobilize people for your candidate, yes, but "vote no matter what" is like "protest for or against the new power plant": it just doesn't make sense.

UPDATE: Dead Serious wrote about it before I did.


And this too

If you have one of those comments-built-in templates on Blogspot, I can't comment on it from work. The internet guardians at Mega Financial Corp. have blocked access to that specific Blogger.com URL where you actually enter the comments, probably forever. So that's too bad.

*sigh* If it's not one thing, it's another. Really, I'm almost completely over the getting-fired-from-a-no-pay-job thing, but it just goes to show you that there's always something.

This photo illustrates the entire issue. (Found at NewYorkish).

Democracy: the new rice pilaf

An interesting article in the Economist, written before Saturday's election in Afghanistan, notes the lack of parliamentary elections:
The election that Afghans have been given, however, is not what they were promised at last year’s loya jirga to enshrine their new constitution. The presidential poll was to be in tandem with a parliamentary election, which would have meant much more to rural Afghans. The parliamentary poll is currently due in April. But since constituencies have not yet been marked out, and since to do so will require a much more precise electoral roll, this looks unlikely. Very possibly, the first act of Afghanistan’s first democratically elected leader will be to postpone the parliamentary election yet again, and so extend his rule-by-decree.

But the real story is that the election served as an overwhelming referendum on a new way of life:
The Taliban vowed to turn the Afghan election into a day of bloodshed, but the rebels mounted only a smattering of small-scale attacks on police and civilians and a larger clash that left many of their own dead.

After months of what proved to be empty threats, military commanders and ordinary Afghans said Sunday the vote was a serious setback for the holdouts of the hard-line Islamic regime that was driven from power by U.S. bombs almost three years ago for harboring Osama bin Laden... Voters also said the Taliban had been exposed as weak.

Second link via Instapundit.


I paid all the dues I want to pay

"Puck'd" was the musical I was supposed to be in, up until yesterday.

The short version is, at the last rehearsal I I was having problems with some of the guitar parts, mostly new music (we were still getting fed new music up until two days ago); not anything I didn't think I could handle with practice, but the director obviously felt differently. Also, I'm told the composer (there was a bunch of original music along with all the covers) was making noises that we weren't playing things they way he intended them to be played (he never attended rehearsals, he only heard about them indirectly from the music director) and he wanted to be involved directly. So, effective immediately I've been replaced by the composer himself, who also happens to be a monster guitar player. He of course knows all the music he wrote, but he now has about four days to learn all the covers we were playing, about 15 altogether, although I was able to learn them all so I don't think he'll have much trouble.

It was painful, and still is a little bit at this point. I've been fired before, though only from programming jobs, and only because the places I was working at were going under, not for any specific failings on my part. So it's sort of a first.

Also it's a first because I'm writing about in a public forum, which isn't a big deal to me because I don't feel I have anything to hide as far as this experience is concerned, but it's certainly a different experience. Actually I'm glad I have this venue because I take solace in the fact that there people out there who are reading this, some of whom I don't know.

There was some drama involving the way the whole thing happened: the director, I thought, did it very poorly, not notifying me in advance and then after I was told pretending I wasn't there, not apologizing or even thanking me for all the work I had already put in (all of it unpaid, of course). I think there's a certain sense of professionalism that you gain coming up through the corporate world that people who haven't had that kind of upbringing sometimes lack, and he, I guess coming up through the theater world, lacked it. Not to set myself up as a model of professionalism, but I don't think I would have handled it in the awful way he did.

I'm still friends with the music director, the woman who brought me in in the first place, and she said she'd be happy to bring me in again on other projects. I'd do musicals again but I'm very leery now of taking on unpaid gigs, because frankly now I feel used.


There is no sense in being interested in
A child, a group, or in a society
There is no sense (there is no sense)
If one does not see in them before anything else
The life its capacity to be founded upon itself.
There is no sense in being interested in
An ill person or unwell a society
If one cannot believe their readiness
And their capacity for proper recovery
(Auto-production, auto-organization)

Stereolab, "Spark Plug"

Off Emperor Tomato Ketchup. What an awesome band.

Terror in Sinai

23 Israelis killed by an explosion at a hotel in Egypt's Sinai peninsula. How tragic. I never visited Egypt, and it's quite possible I never will, but I know a lot of Israelis who have gone there; it's a popular place for young people especially, sort of the equivalent of Cancun or Tijuana for Americans.

According to this article there were street celebrations going on afterward in Gaza and Cairo. Why does the U.S. still give Egypt $2 billion a year? I don't know.

Rings around the world

Puck'd, the show I'm playing guitar in, is starting next week, on Thursday, Oct. 14. It runs through Oct. 30, and it's playing Thursdays through Mondays, with Saturday matinees. It's playing at a 99-person theater about a block away from Lincoln Center. They have an official information page, with times and ticket-ordering information, if you're so inclined.

Having now been through some rehearsals with the entire cast, I have to say it's a spectacle: there's acting, singing, dancing, acrobatics. It's really unlike anything I've ever done before. And the cast is full of very talented people. Plus my distortion pedal gets a serious workout. And I have a minor speaking role.

I guess that's it. I think it'll be a good show.

UPDATE: By the way, this is a strictly unpaid gig, as was asked in the comments. Lest anyone be inspired by this post to go into the field of musical theater for the easy cash. It's not so.


Money encourages people? Nonsense

I wanted to see what people on the other side were saying about the VP debate. Here's Joshua Marshall:
Then there was the time when [Cheney] said that a major reason for the decline of suicide bombings in Israel is that Saddam is no longer paying those $25,000 bounties to the families of the bombers.

That's got to be one of the stupidest I've ever heard. No one believes that. And I'm sure he'll be ridiculed endlessly for saying it.

Endless ridicule awaited.

"Pincer strategy"

George Will has an interesting column noting that two of Bush's planned policies for his next term, tort reform and privatizing hundreds of thousands of government jobs, make strategic political sense, since they would weaken two of the most important bases of Democratic fundraising, trial lawyers and organized labor, respectively. Besides just being accepted Republican policy, of course.


And now me

If you're ever around the 48th St./Times Square area in Manhattan and want to do some music instrument-related shopping at one of the corporate behemoths, I highly recommend Manny's Music over, say, Sam Ash. I went there today to fix the input on my guitar, which partly fell off, and the guy in charge of repairs couldn't have been nicer; he did it in five minutes, all while explaining some equipment to another customer, and at the end he didn't charge me anything. I paid him $5, which was probably too little because I was expecting to pay around $20.

And their collection of musician "thank you" headshots rivals that of any store anywhere, I think: everyone from Pat Metheny to Patti Smith to Eddie Van Halen to Jimi Hendrix has gotten help from the good folks at Manny's.

Learning from history

I didn't see the debates, but I read the transcript. My favorite part wasn't any sort of personal attack, or even Cheney's devasting-sounding I-feel-no-need-to-respond-to-that nonresponses, but this part:
CHENEY: Twenty years ago we had a similar situation in El Salvador. We had -- guerrilla insurgency controlled roughly a third of the country, 75,000 people dead, and we held free elections. I was there as an observer on behalf of the Congress.

The human drive for freedom, the determination of these people to vote, was unbelievable. And the terrorists would come in and shoot up polling places; as soon as they left, the voters would come back and get in line and would not be denied the right to vote.

And today El Salvador is a whale of a lot better because we held free elections. The power of that concept is enormous. And it will apply in Afghanistan, and it will apply as well in Iraq.

This is what it's all about: the clear-cut historical context, the dignified view of democracy as a basic human longing, the optimistic and big-picture approach to foreign policy that knows there's a future beyond today's headlines - these are a big part of why I support George W. Bush in the first place. And the folksy touch of "whale of a lot" is nice too.

As analogies to Iraq go, El Salvador isn't a bad example. 30 years ago, South America didn't have any democracies either. Mark Steyn made the same point in a column a few months ago (scroll down to "South of the Border").

Hopefully this statement will get a lot of play.

That said, if history is any guide I don't think the VP debate will have any real effect on the presidential race.

That said, I'm still supremely confident that Bush will win the election.

That said, I'm feeling a little less confident lately about a bet I have going that he'll lose no more than 10 states.

Man, I'm really hedging like Kerry here.

Speaking of which, "hedging like Kerry" could be a good rap line; you could rhyme it with something like, "UN approval, is that necessary?".


The chihuahua and the bear

Another rehearsal tonight means I'll be missing the vice-presidential debate. An out-of-nowhere hunch tells me this one won't be quite as collegial as Cheney-Lieberman 2000. I wonder if lawyer Edwards will pull out the jury-pleasing insanity argument again.

I'll also be missing the Archives Listening Project featuring the musical stylings of Moondog. And I was looking forward to this one, darn it.

United Terrorists

Israelly Cool has a good roundup of the current UN scandal, this one involving a UN ambulance allegedly being used by Palestinians to carry a rocket, and the UN admitting that they knowingly keep members of Hamas on their payroll.

The fact that the UN aids Palestinian terrorists in various ways is hardly a new revelation (here's an AIPAC report from over two years ago to the same effect), but hopefully the egregiousness of the current situation will cause some changes to occur... maybe. It's good to be hopeful.


Good economic news

Construction spending in the U.S. hit an all-time high in August:
The Commerce Department reported Friday that the value of buildings put in place clocked in at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $1.02 trillion, a record high. That represented a 0.8 percent increase in August from July's level.

Yes, we're "turning the corner"... and putting a nice sanding finish on that corner while we're at it.

Via Ace of Spades.

Breaking up is hard to do

John Kerry told a heartrending tale of love lost at Thursday's debate:
Here we have our own secretary of state who has had to apologize to the world for the presentation he made to the United Nations.

I mean, we can remember when President Kennedy in the Cuban missile crisis sent his secretary of state to Paris to meet with DeGaulle. And in the middle of the discussion, to tell them about the missiles in Cuba, he said, “Here, let me show you the photos.” And DeGaulle waved them off and said, “No, no, no, no. The word of the president of the United States is good enough for me.

Yes, the current situation is Bush's fault, no doubt. I can remember the dramatic wave-off Jacques Chirac gave to Colin Powell at the UN, as Powell was about to display evidence of Iraq's WMD's programs. "Ah, no! This is not necessary," Chirac exclaimed, "we have no reason to doubt the word of our good friend the United States." "We shall send in a dozen of our finest military divisions," Gerhard Schroeder echoed, again waving off the evidence offered, "if the Americans tell us Herr Saddam is a threat, this is good enough for us."

Then, later, when it emerged that the evidence was based on some faulty intelligence, there was the famous discussion between Chirac, Schroeder and Vladimir Putin: "ah, what a disaster! It seems we have been misinformed by the Americans, whom we gave our undying trust to until this point," Chirac exclaimed. "Da, it's the end of an era, all because of that two-timing George Bush," Putin agreed.

I remember it well: what a sad day it was, when America alienated its historical ally France, along with historical allies Germany and Russia.


Missed it

I understand there was some sort of political debate last night? I was at rehearsal the entire time, playing "Do The Hustle" among others. For a quasi-punk-rock show, we're ending up doing a lot of disco numbers.

I picked up a copy of Believer magazine last night, the "music issue". It's put out by the same people behind McSweeney's, I'm pretty sure. It had an article by an Elliott Smith fan, in which she noted among other things the bizarre spectacle of seeing him nominated for an Oscar for "Miss Misery" and standing onstage alongside Celine Dion, nominated for "My Heart Will Go On", who won. It's somewhat ironic because we're doing "My Heart Will Go On" in the show, which ranks a distant second in the music quality department, and through that juxtaposition sort of became the embodiment of soulless, pointless music. I mean, we're playing it ironically, but still I got a little frisson of shame.

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