Quick hits


Chris Geddes, idiot; Belle and Sebastian, off the play list?

So Jessica, guest blogging at Alarming News, has a post on a rumor that Belle and Sebastian, the Scottish indie band, is now refusing to play shows in Israel out of sympathy with the plight of the Palestinians. Sort of like that anti-Apartheid "We Won't Play Sun City" movement, except if the black Africans were mostly governing themselves already, and the ones living in South Africa had full voting rights, and South Africa was surrounded by countries that were trying to destroy it and the black Africans spent a lot of time blowing people up... okay, it's nothing like South Africa.

Anyway, if they're really anti-Israel it probably means that I'll have to stop listening to Belle and Sebastian; I don't really care what artists have to say about America or President Bush, but I draw the line at attacking Israel. Which would be too bad. Because they're one of my favorites.

So I looked it up and according to their "Beliefs Q&A" pages, here and here, Chris Geddes, their keyboard player and a not-very-important band member, is so far the only one making these statements. He toured Israel and the occupied territories and now fancies himself an expert. The rest of the band claims they've never discussed the matter, so the band has no "policy" on Israel.

Then again, Stuart Murdoch, the lead singer, was also on the trip, and there's this photo, which is disturbing...

I guess I'll see.

While I'm already on it... one of the Q&A letter-writers on their site offers a well-written retort:

From: Alan
Q.Hi.I would like to start by saying that I don't think there's any Jew with half a brain, Israeli or otherwise, who doesn't find the occupation offensive and embarassing. However, we can't help but feel a little uncomfortable when we hear, of all the displaced peoples in the world, Palestinians are the ones who are talked about. We never hear about the Krajina Serbs, for example. Forced to flee from Croatia in the 90's, they now live in Serbia. Why don't we hear about them? Because they are not being forced by their own people to live as permanent refugees in squalid camps. They made the best of a tragic situation and got on with their lives. They don't lob missiles at Croatian schools, nor do they blow up buses in Zagreb. Thousands of ethnic Germans were expelled from Poland after WWII, yet you'll visit Poland. For that matter, surviving Jews were not allowed to reclaim much of their property after the Holocaust. Here's the point: The Palestinians are where they are today because Arab nations attacked Israel. Palestinian refugees were kicked out of the Palestinian nation of Jordan, which is ruled by a Hashemite, non-Palestinian minority. I'm sorry this is so long-winded, Chris. As I said at the beginning, the Palestinian occupation is a deplorable embarassment. But Israel didn't just decide one day it would be fun to subjugate the Palestinians. We Jews have heard the all-too-convenient smokescreen "Oh, I'm not anti-Semitic, just anti-Zionist," much too often. Fortunately, now that Arafat (an Egyptian, not a Palestinian, by the way) is dead, maybe the Palestinians will be free to make peace and develop their country.

Here's Chris' answer:
Thanks for getting in touch Alan.
While I don't have the knowledge to answer all your points, I can only say that the Palestinians are the only displaced people I feel qualified to talk about at all, as they're the only ones I've met.
Also I think two of the reasons the Palestinian struggle is so important internationally are that the conflict was largly caused and is allowed to continue by external forces, i.e. the Balfour declaration by the British, the UN partition plan of 1947, the wars between Israel and its Arab neigbours, and the continuing huge amounts of US aid for Israel, despite the US supposedly being behind the Road Map peace process. Secondly the number of UN resolutions and long established international concensus on the conflict makes it important that a soution is reached if the strength of the international community to prevent further wars is not to be further undermined. At a time when we are facing numerous problems which can only be solved at a global level, climate change for example, strengthening the international community is seems absolutely vital.

Chris' two points are both nonsense. "External forces" have played a part in every conflict, including Serbia. How was it that Serbs had to flee Croatia? There was a coalition of outside countries on the side of the Croatians, including, yes, England, driving them out. And he points to U.S. aid for Israel but forgets about the massive U.N. and E.U. aid to the Palestinian Authority, much of which goes directly to fund terrorism. His second point is a clear case of begging the question: he notes that the "international community" (talking about the U.N., I assume) is viewed as increasingly irrelevant and says that bringing peace to Israel would improve its image. But isn't the U.N.'s fixation on Israel, to the near-exclusion of most of the rest of the world's problems, the clearest symptom of its irrelevance and corruption? (The answer is yes).

(By the way, there's a "Yaron" quoted on the same page, also upset at Chris G., but it's not me. Evidently B&S have a lot of Israeli fans, or maybe that should be former Israeli fans.)


And for your listening pleasure

The Wifebeaters: Frame by Frame. No relation to the King Crimson song of the same name. Oddly enough, I think this is the first-ever recording of me on the web. I'm on bass, which is pretty low in the mix, which is fine by me. Hope you like it! As usual when I hear myself, I can't tell if my part is good at all. I know the rest of the band sounds really good. You have to give credit to Matt, our producer extraordinaire (and somewhat of a head honcho in the anti-folk scene). What started out as a fairly simple song became sort of a Cocteau-Twins-esque soundscape by the time he was done with it.


Well, it's been a while since I wrote anything here. I got, of all things, a cold over the last few days, but I'm pretty much recovered from it. I blame A/C - both the subways and my office building are a little bit too cold, outside it's in the 80's, and the constant temperature fluctuation is a killer.

Might have been the party, though. Plus the 12 hours of prep beforehand. Seriously, hosting a party at one's place is a lot of work. It turned out awesome, though. A bunch of people came, my playlists (we hooked up an iPod to speakers for the soundtrack) were I think successful (I made a rock one for the beginning and a hip-hope one for later, which I think is the way to go), and people basically drank and ate their way through everything that was put out in front of them like the lovable freeloaders they are.


Give us our time back

John J. Miller at The Corner notes that Congress is now considering extending Daylight Savings Time - by one month in either direction - in order to save energy.

He also links to an earlier column of his that not that the energy-saving benefits are unknown. Yes, if there's more daylight after work, people turn on the lights less, but wouldn't they also use air conditioners more? What's more, the original sponsors of DST turn out to have been... big business: retailers who thought more daylight would lead to more after-hours shopping, and Wall Street companies who figured traders coming in an hour earlier would reduce an hour's worth of advantage that the earlier London market had.

Forget foreign policy, the Supreme Court and the rest. I think we've found a new cause to rally behind: kill Daylight Savings Time! We just need a catchy slogan. I'm thinking, "Daylight savings? I won't spring for that!"

This one might be harder than it looks.


"I cannae hold her for much longer, cap'n!"

James "Scotty" Doohan, R.I.P. - he was a Canadian playing a Scot; a brave D-Day veteran who had a finger blown off by German machine-gun fire (really); and the man who played Scotty, maybe the greatest engineer in the history of fiction (okay, I'm not counting fictional software engineers in this one, because that's a much bigger list, but out of all the rest). Time to pour some Scotch on the curb. Or Molson's, maybe.

Ace has two nice posts - one with a touching photo from some sort of golden-age sci-fi convention, and the second showing Ace's softer side with a poem. Okay, the poem's kind of scatological. But, among other things, it does note the utter uselessness of Chekhov.


Batman Begins: my review

So I heartily recommend Batman Begins. I think it's the best of the Batman movies, even better than the Tim Burton ones (which, in retrospect, weren't that good - okay, Batman Returns, which had the Penguin and Catwoman, was well done, but the first one was basically an hour of Batman brooding while watching the Joker on his TV).

It's a serious movie and only barely campy, which is good because I'm not into the campy stuff. Batman is some sort of ninja in this one: I guess Hong Kong-style martial arts skills are the current definition of "cool" for action heroes, just like handgun skills used to be, or car chase-skills for that matter. So that's the way it is; there's some nice sword fights in there. Is that faithful to any of the comic books? I wouldn't know.

Strangely, just about all of the cast are foreigners, mostly British but Rutger Hauer is in there too, all doing American accents. Even Christian Bale is Welsh, isn't he? Though I've only ever seen him as an American. The only real Americans I counted in there were Katie Holmes and Morgan Freeman. They're all good, so the blatant outsourcing isn't a problem, but it's still a bit strange. My guess is the director's British and wanted to help the lads out.

The cast are quite good, especially (looking this up...) Cillian Murphy as Scarecrow. He was very good in 28 Days Later, but he really comes into his own as a villain. He has that Kevin Spacey-type ambiguous sexuality about him that's really effective. If you put him and Ryan Phillippe together as co-villains it might be the scariest movie ever made.

There's a philosophical element to it: the movie tells us that "it's not who you are underneath, but what you do, that defines you" (I guess Batman's a Catholic). I think it's a good superhero message. I consider it a strong conservative message, actually, the idea that people can redeem themselves based on their actions as opposed to just their noble intentions.

There's some major plot holes, which I'd list but I don't want to spoil anything. Let me just say that it appears the people of Gotham are actually screwed at the end even if they've allegedly been saved. But don't let me sway you from watching the movie; maybe I just missed something.



Ginger's quitting... again. Can you do that? It's too bad, because I was going to link to one of her entries, a delightfully mean-spirited post where she put up a photo of her co-worker's very messy car seat.

To sort-of quote "The Wedding Crashers", we lost a lot of good people out there.

Roofdeck party

At my place. This Saturday. Email me for directions if you're interested.

There will be tunes, some recently-bought outdoor lighting, and the ones will be cold. So there you have it.


Quick hits


Why they like us

Anne Applebaum has an interesting piece about pro-Americanism in the world:
We all know the stereotypes of the anti–Americans: The angry Arab radical, demonstrating in the mythical Arab street; or the left–wing newspaper editor, fulminating at Berlin dinner parties; or the French farmer, railing against McDonald’s. Now, perhaps, we should add new stereotypes: The British small businessman, son of a coal miner, who once admired Thatcher and has been to Florida on holiday. Or the Polish anticommunist intellectual, who argued about Reagan with his Parisian friends in the 1980s, and disagrees with them about the Iraqi war now. Or the Indian stockbroker, the South Korean investment banker, and the Philippine manufacturer, all of whom have excellent relations with their American clients, all of whom support a U.S. military presence in their parts of the world, and all of whom probably harbor a fondness for President Bush...

The areas of the world in which a pro-American tilt emerges in opinion polls are Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe and South Africa and, to a lesser extent, Britain and Australia (she doesn't mention Israel, but I'm sure as high up as any of them). Applebaum identifies them all as areas in which there has been rapid political and/or economic improvement in the last 20 or 30 years.

Presumably you could think of these countries as the "middle class" of the world: not basketcases like parts of Africa and Latin America, not rich and "post-historical" societies like Canada or Western Europe, and not countries in severe demographic decline like Russia (speaking of which, check out this "Russian catastrophe watch" - oh man).

(Via Chrenkoff)


7/7 attacks

Bombing in London - at least 45 dead. My thoughts and sympathies are with the people of London.

It looks like there's a fairly broad agreement that this was the work of Islamic terrorists. So now Britain is faced with the choice of whether to redouble her efforts (like the U.S. did) or go the way of appeasement (like Spain did). I'm not so concerned about the war in Iraq, since Tony Blair's support has been rock-solid, but about their general commitment to fighting the war on terror and to rooting out the growing Islamist threat in their own country.

Statements like these do make me hopeful.

Live 8 economics

It's a Live 8 two-fer: Kenyan economist James Shikwati pleads for the West to stop sending aid to Africa!

And Mark Steyn points out how Live 8 is doubly evil, screwing him that gives and him that takes:
Two decades ago, Sir Bob was at least demanding we give him our own fokkin' money. This time round, all he was asking was that we join him into bullying the G8 blokes to give us their taxpayers' fokkin' money.

Okay, make that a three-fer: Tim Blair has another roundup of aid stupidity.

Of course, the other component to the discussion, besides increased aid, is levelling the trade playing field by reducing Western countries' tariffs and subsidies, and this one has the advantage of making actual economic sense. On this issue President Bush took the under-reported dramatic initiative two days ago:
"Let's join hands as wealthy industrialised nations and say to the world, 'We are going to get rid of all our agricultural subsidies together.' We are willing to do so and we will do so with our fine friends in the European Union."

Amazing. Let's hope so. The ball's in Europe's hands now.

Je suis back

This blogging delay has gone on for far longer than I intended! The cable outage I mentioned before is still going on. I'm writing this from world-famous Park Slope Tea Lounge.

The weekend was pretty packed. I went with a certain Girl to Montreal (eh oui) to go see the jazz festival, which maybe should be renamed the Festival of Jazzy Music because there wasn't much straight jazz. I was there seven years ago and it was a lot more jazz-based then; now it's a lot of soul, blues, world music, techno, etc.: crowd-pleasers with a beat. Literally the only real live jazz we heard was coming from a bar in the Old City.

We did get to see some good shows, including "Les" Blind Boys of Alabama, who played a stunning set of down-home gospel, including can-I-get-a-witness hollers (answer: yes).

If you're going to Montreal, you really must try the poutine, which is a Quebec specialty that's french fries with gravy and melted cheese (and sometimes other stuff) poured over it. It's sort of innately Quebecois because it marries French and British influences: French ingredients with the British desire to turn everything into a plate of mush. We had vegetarian poutine, and it was delicious.

I also got to meet the French-Canadian equivalent of me, a computer programmer who also plays bass guitar. Though (good for them) his band's a little more ahead in the game than we are at the moment...

We got to see some the Live 8 coverage on TV. Probably more on that later, but the Canadian coverage was Toronto-heavy but less intrusive than I've heard of the MTV coverage. Bryan Adams was on (of course), and put on a solid show, amazingly enough. Motley Crue sounded like crap, I think they were having problems with their monitors. The Tragically Hip were just corny... where were Moxy Fruvous when you needed them? The Pink Floyd show was awesome, and shown without any unnecessary banter.

We also took a day trip to Quebec City, which has an Old City that's quite beautiful and can basically be seen in a day, so I didn't feel like we missed anything by not staying there for longer. We didn't get to see one of the "sugar shacks", but I already was at one at a French-class field trip a long time ago and in any case I had had enough maple syrup in its various forms by that point to get me close to diabetic shock anyway.

Got back to New York just in time to go see the Fourth of July fireworks at an East Village roofdeck party. Um, that was pretty awesome too. Okay, that was my weekend. Hope I haven't bored y'all here, that went on for longer than I thought it would.

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