Freedom from Blog

Don't call it a comeback . . . .

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Blog Fail

No new post since last Monday? Fail fail fail.

Here's one to reflect on . . . I ran 18 miles today, in training for the Rock-n-Roll National Marathon. (Funniest event name ever? Is it the national marathon in the rock-n-roll nation?) That went OK. It's been at least four years since I ran that far. It was difficult, but I actually felt, toward the end, that I could go on a bit farther. Which is good, b/c a marathon is 26.2 miles, which makes 18 look like a walk in the proverbial frickin' park.

In two weeks, 20 miles. That one will put my arse back on the shelf.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Live Blogging the First Florida Debate

OK, not sure how long this will last . . .

9:01. Brian Williams skips the introductions. "Everyone knows each other," indeed. More like, "Everyone hates each other."

9:02. Three candidates get congratulated for winning something. Sorry, Ron Paul.

9:02. Gingrich asked whether he's erratic. Is Williams trying to throw the fastball down the middle? Wait, Gingrich doesn't attack the question? He compares himself to Reagan, instead. First mention of "the Washington establishment." "Manage the decay" line. He's prepared to be controversial.

9:04. How have you changed, Newt? He goes back to his record as Speaker. He's selling his record by highlighting Clinton's accomplishments!

9:05. First Romney question: electability? No, Romney says, its leadership. And Gingrich wasn't a leader . . . he resigned in disgrace. Hits "disgrace" twice. Calls Newt an "influence peddlar," Ouch. So off to a battle of records.

9:06. "I'm not going to spend the evening chasing the Governor's misinformation." Newt calls it "the worst kind of trivial politics." I wonder what the four wrong things were?

9:07. Romney asked, why don't Southern GOPpers like you? He falls back on New Hampshire. Which is south of Canada.

9:08. Romney back to attacking Newt's record, "resigned in disgrace" again. Didn't Jim Wright resign too? (Yes, the missus looked it up.) And now "Freddie Mack." Mitt's coming out blazing. And he says he learned this in South Carolina. Maybe he learned this from his own ads?

9:10. Newt wants more than 30 seconds to respond. Newt asked the House Republicans to reprimand him, "to get it over with." The reprimand greased the skids for the tax cuts and balanced budget. Imagine what great things would have happened if they had fined him!

9:11. Santorum comes in, "a choice b/w an erratic and a moderate." Like Santorum's tie. What is his path to victory? He offers a clear contrast with Obama. Yeah, that makes him special in this field. Ron Paul offers no contrast with Obama.

9:13. BW throws Santorum's 18-pt loss in his face. He says, a rising tide sinks all Republicans, but he stood tall and took the loss like a "consistent conservative."

9:14. Ron Paul gets his first question. BW: Do you have a path to the Oval Office? Are you running as a third-party candidate? Not sure I'm following his argument . . . he says he might get delegates in Iowa?

9:16. Paul disagrees with Newt's history of his fall. But not terribly clearly.

9:17. Paul "not an absolutist." Would he support Newt? Likes Newt on the Fed and gold, but not foreign policy . . .

9:17. "A gold commission"? Interesting to see Paul and Newt playing nice with one another, sort of, on policy.

9:18. Romney on taxes: "what's in there?" BW asks. Romney: "No surprises." But is that we expect surprises? Romney pivots to the taxes of the American people. Pushes his tax cut for middle- and low-income Americans on interest and capital gains, which wouldn't make much of an impact, of course.

9:20. "I'm proud that I pay a lot of taxes."

9:21. Newt goes flat tax, calls it the Mitt Romney flat tax. Then Romney says that under Newt's plan, he wouldn't pay any taxes. Is that a selling point?

9:22. Romney putting out two years of tax returns, not twelve. "The right number."

9:23. "I do not apologize for being successful." Is this a winner? "I'm not going to apologize for free enterprise"?

9:24. Santorum says he hasn't attacked Romney on Bain (he hasn't). Where is he going with this . . . oh, "if you believe in capitalism so much, why did you [Romney and Newt] support the bailout of capitalism?" OK, BW, Santorum is doing your job now.

9:26. Romney wants to see Newt's "work product" for Freddie Mack. This is a good one. Newt says it was consulting, not lobbying. OK. BW: "You never peddled influence?" (What does that mean?) Newt: "I have never, never done any lobbying." He has an expert who defined the bright-line b/w participation and lobbying. I would love to hear that expert.

9:28. Romney, "they don't pay historians that much." "You were hired by the chief lobbyist."

9:29. Newt: "I offered strategic advice." I know what this means (I think), but does this resonate with voters?

9:30. Newt asks Romney how much Bain made. Romney doesn't like this. Is BW going to just let these guys go at it?

9:31. Newt steps back again, where is he going . . . oh, he defends his support for Medicare Part D . . . in Florida! He hits it hard. Newt: "I did what any citizen could have done."

9:32. The only money Romney doesn't like is money that Newt made. BW steps in to stop the fight, but only to cut to commercial.

First commercial break thought: I re-iterate that Newt needs a better way to describe what he did as a "consultant." I think that it's very likely that he didn't do anything that looks like traditional lobbying. (That would probably be too much like real work for Newt.)

9:36. Santorum gets a question about Florida real estate. BW: "Was it too easy to own a home?" Santorum saw the problem, voted a bill out of committee to constrain the GSEs. He signed a letter (with 24 other senators). (Only senators consider signing a letter an action.) Now, he would let "capitalism work."

9:38. Let folks deduct losses on real estate from taxes. That's interesting. Need to look into that. Doubt that it could be temporary, as Santorum says.

9:39. Paul raises Community Reinvestment Act. Paul favors letting housing prices fall some more. Will that be popular in Florida?

9:40. I've heard it said that Newt is what a dumb person thinks a smart person sounds like. I think that Ron Paul is what a conspiratorial thinker thinks a smart person sounds like.

9:41. Newt: Repealing Dodd-Frank would improve the economy tomorrow?

9:42. BW: "Is the finance industry really over-regulated?" Newt, yes.

9:42. Romney, "you have to have regulation." Oops, a Kinsley gaffe!

9:43. BW goes 3 am phone call. But Cuba? I guess Cubans in boats are now a national security crisis. "Thank Heavens that Fidel has rejoined his Maker." Not Mormon nice.

9:44. Newt: "Fidel isn't going to meet his Maker." Mormons don't really believe in Hell. Newt clearly does.

9:45. Newt would use covert forces in Cuba.

9:46. Paul: "I would do the opposite. . . . The Cold War is over." Paul is right that the U.S. as enemy was/is a valuable asset for the Castro regime.

9:47. BW goes meta on Santorum, question of Chinese dissidents in a state "like Florida." This is a very strange question. Is Santorum supposed to answer this? Good that he didn't try.

9:48. Santorum: Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua are working with jihadists, and they want platforms to attack across the Southern border. Does he have anything to back that up?

9:49. Romney gets the Straits of Hormuz question. Romney wants to build 15 ships a year instead of nine. BW, obvious follow up: How would you pay for that? Not asked.

9:50. BW to Newt, are the American people tired of war? Newt says that the Americans never want to go to war. "We like peace." But we will fight for freedom of the sea. Newt: "Dictatorships respond to strength."

9:51. Romney wants to "beat" the Taliban. We can accomplish this (and a working Afghan military) in a couple of years. But I'm sure he wasn't brain-washed.

9:52. Even Paul wouldn't negotiate with the Taliban. Paul says that the U.S. is blockaded Iran, and that's an act of war. It's true, a blockade is an act of war. But are we blockading Iran? "The people don't want a hot war in Iran."

Second commercial break thought: Debate moderators should never ask Republican candidates about foreign policy. I would almost say, any candidates. But last time, the debate b/w Obama and Clinton was actually pretty substantive. Obama has basically done what he said he would on many things, including targeting Bin Laden in Pakistan. But on the GOP side, it's saber rattling, all raging is, except Paul. (And the GOP won't adopt his views on foreign policy.) It's very unlikely that anything these candidates say about foreign policy (including Paul) will have any impact on a future GOP administration.

9:58. Adam Smith (obvious joke?) and Beth Reinhardt join Brian Williams.

9:59. Santorum gets an Iran question. BW asks about "the target list." That's the military problem with attacking Iran? Santorum warns about Iran getting a nuclear weapon. "The threat that Iran poses to the world and the United States." The government of Iran is "equivalent to al Qaeda running a country with oil"?

10:00. Santorum: "A long list of attacks" from Iran. "It would be reckless not to do something" to prevent their getting a nuclear weapon! Oh, my.

10:01. Santorum on off-shore drilling. Need oil for tourism, lady. But will the off-shore drilling reduce energy prices?

10:02. English as official language question, hypocrisy slant. Newt actually avoids the frame and pivots to number of languages, beyond just English and Spanish.

10:04. Romney agrees with Newt. Goes foreign language teaching in Massachusetts. Note that he never said "Massachusetts." "Home state." Compare to how many times Santorum says "Pennsylvania."

10:05. Paul: "If Florida wanted ballots in Spanish, I wouldn't support a national law" to require English (locally). Not a bad answer.

10:06. DREAM Act to Gingrich: he wouldn't veto the DREAM Act, would create path to citizenship through military service. So going to college, no. Military service, yes. Romney agrees.

10:07. Romney gets the deportation question. "The answer is self-deportation." Oh, why hasn't anyone thought of that before? The illegals can deport themselves! Smith follows up: "Don't we have self-deportation already?"

10:08. Santorum says self-deportation is going on now. Lots of talk about enforcing the laws that exist now. Not rewarding breaking the law.

10:10. Newt gets ethanol/sugar subsidies question. "Too many beet sugar states." I agree. "Hard to get to" doing away with farm subsidies. He's right.

10:11. Romney: "people in Florida hurting." Pivots from sugar to employment. I guess the clock is running out, and he wanted to hit the Florida economy and NASA. "He plays 90 rounds of golf." "We're heading to a Greece-style collapse."

10:12. Paul getting Everglades question. He would commit to preserving the Everglades.

Third commercial break thought: Not new, but immigration is one of the most difficult issues in U.S. politics right now. Probably more difficult than the deficit and budget. There, one could actually imagine a policy solution, however bad the politics. I.e., tax increases and budget cuts could actually balance the budget. But there are so many illegals, even if you could agree to a "path to citizenship," it would be very difficult to process that many applications in anything resembling a thorough process (without creating a massive but temporary bureaucracy). Then there's the amnesty problem: politically, there must be a sanction for being in the country illegally (to avoid the "amnesty" label). But if there's a sanction that is actually a sanction, it discourages applicants for legal status. So you need a sanction severe enough to punish (not reward), but weak enough not to deter. There is a name for that: impossible.

10:17. Santorum gets a Terri Schiavo question. Santorum went to her bedside? No, he didn't. Whew. He didn't call for a federal intervention, but for a federal court to hear the case. Hmm. All Southerners know that the federal courts aren't really federal. But Santorum actually gave a good response.

10:19. Santorum doesn't think that do not resuscitate orders are not immoral.

10:19. Newt: Death row inmates have lots of appeals. Schiavo was effectively on death row. But there was lots of judicial review in that case.

10:20. Paul: we should all have living wills. Paul wanted decision made at state level. So he disagrees with Santorum?

Battery power is low, and my energy is low, too.

10:21. Lady claims that Florida put men on the moon? Nonsense. Romney wants to have a vision for NASA. Would use NASA for military development. I know that that's the direction NASA has gone (Shuttle Atlantis), but still think this is a bad idea. NASA was set up as a civilian agency so it wouldn't be dominated by the Air Force.

I'm going to stop typing and just watch. Enjoy.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Aye of Newt

Predictions for tomorrow's SC primary: Newt 42%; Mittens 24%; Santorum 15%; Paul 12%; Cain/Colbert 7%

Wishful thinking?

Friday, January 20, 2012

Still reeling

After seeing that Rolling Stone rated Appetite for Destruction higher (#61) than Led Zeppelin IV (#66). And how does Led Zeppelin (#29) rank higher than IV? And why isn't IV in the top 10?

And how does Physical Graffiti rank (#70) when Led Zeppelin II and Houses of the Holy are clearly better Zeppelin records?

And how is it that the Beatles, a band which is basically un-listen-able today--ask yourself, when was the last time that you sought out a Beatles song?--have three of the top five albums, and the Beach Boys have one of the top five?!?

The Beach Boys. I know that you listen to them . . . ironically, if at all.

Feel free to disagree in comments.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


So I talked to a reporter from one of the major legal news journals in the United States this afternoon. She seemed completely unaware that, sometimes, people have self-serving reasons to misrepresent the facts, stretch the truth, let alone lie. And here I thought journos were supposed to be skeptical, even cynical.

And that's your first new word for 2012.

And, just to be clear, I wasn't misrepresenting the facts, stretching the truth, or lying. I was bringing the knowledge. As the kids were saying 10 years ago. (15?)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

FFB Champs

Having fun with three posts in one day . . . but I would like to announce that my fantasy football team, the Dead Lions, won the League this year, in a spectacle of statistical bravado . . . it was a great draft, followed by great waiver wire pick-ups. We led the League in points scored from Week 2 . . . it was an eventuality that we would take home the trophy . . . and we did, in week 15. Like I said, there was an eventuality there. But if it were baseball . . . 16 games is 10%.

Which is why I am QUITTING fantasy baseball forever . . . but starting my own fantasy football league. I still need at least FOUR teams (I am old, without many friends). Sign up. Unless your first or last name is Wilson . . . JK! (No, seriously.) Wilson, email me.

I am still old--one year on.

I am still old. Favorite album of 2011 was Bob Seger's hits album. (More to come!)

Old and L-A-M-E.

In comments . . . best Bob Seger song?


And this is an 3-ways inside joke aimed at TMcD, which he might not get . . . thrice.

I am almost certainly one of the world's most privileged and advantaged people, ever. Not one of the 1%, currently, but on a historical scale, pretty much 1%, or 0.0001%. (I won't die of the bubonic plague, or cholera, or starvation, or malaria . . . or, at least, I have a reasonable expectation that I won't.) Not to brag, but I have a job that I like, and everything else in my life is good. I have my health (I ran 9 miles Sunday, on a hilly course, at 9 min./mi. pace, so that's at least a sign of health . . . for now). I have a beautiful daughter.

If I had one complaint, and we are deep in "why should I care?" country, it is that I am bored most of the time. I can do my job, most days, without a major effort. I think I am a good father and a good husband, most days, but except for the pressure cooker (new post coming soon), I can cook, and clean, and get folks to school etc. without much new thought. Even at work, most of what I do, I can do without stretching.

My sense is that my best friends at work suffer from the same problem. (Discussion over coffee break.)

But after discussion today, it's clear that no one wants more excitement!

We want to have a boring life, but one that seems less boring! Was Freud right, after all?

And, appreciating TMcD's situation, acknowledging that "non-boring" does not equal "good", not sure how to close. Hope that this is not close to the nerve!

Be prepared for more updates on BOREDOM. I'm sure that this is what killed my interest in blogging. For instance, I find the current political scene as boring as Gilligan's Island. Those people ain't never goin' to escape!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Getting the Band Back Together

I heard a rumor that TMcD wanted to get the band back together. Well, I need a separate dressing room and bottled water . . . but I might be willing to do some blogging in 2012. Have to think about this a bit.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Zombie Music Post, 2011 Adios

On a winter's Sunday I go
To clear away the snow

And green the ground below

April is an ocean away
Is this the better way to spend the day?
Keeping the winter at bay

~ "January Hymn," the Decemberists

How many ways can you polish up a turd?

~ "Hell Broke Luce," Tom Waits

Oh FFB, I've missed you! Have time for a "last" post? Sure you do. Our parting was so abrupt and unceremonious, a couple of curt lines from #3 and an overwrought if undercooked rant about Ron Paul (still a racist!) from me. Sorry I haven't been in touch. As an apology gift, how about my new mix tape? Yeah, no one listens to mix tapes anymore, but I'm feeling nostalgic, especially for things no one does anymore. Like casual, long-form blogging. Facebook? Ha! Oh, you mean you want me to update my "status"? Well, as you know, this has been a rough year for the TMcDs. Remember all those fun stories about sinister spiders and septuagenarian survivalists? So 2010. Good times. 2011? Not so much. But 2012 will be the year I pick up the pieces and rebuild. . . something.

So I'm going to clear the decks, toss out the mental clutter of a year undone, if you'll help me FFB. It's time, once again, for the year in music. A surprisingly good year, although for a while I thought I wouldn't have ten new records to talk about. I spent a lot of this year losing myself in old, venerable music I had more or less overlooked: the Band's Music From Big Pink, Dylan's Blonde on Blonde and Blood on the Tracks (yeah, I know that last one is a cliche, but damn it's good), Van Morrison's Astral Weeks, John Mellencamp's No Better Than This, a nearly perfect break-up record that just came out last year but feels fifty years old. Best musical memory of the year? Driving through the mountains of NC, putting in Blonde on Blonde, and hearing Bay (2 1/2), from the backseat, chanting the chorus to "Rainy Day Women": "everybody must get STONED!" Amen, sister. Meanwhile, some of this year's most celebrated music left me cold: Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes, Radiohead.

That said, I didn't have much trouble coming up with my superlative list, and I'm even leaving off a couple of good CD's, which means it must have been a pretty decent year overall. The first five or six entries on my list all could have been my number 1 and might have been in weaker years. So, without further ado, I humbly submit my favorite music from a shit-ass year:

1) the Decemberists, The King Is Dead. The best REM album in 15 years came out, and it wasn't even REM. OK, so Peter Buck plays guitar on several tracks, making it an arty, Oregonian step-child. I had lost interest in these guys over their last couple of albums, which were too self-indulgent in their prog-rock pretense. But this one is a folky miracle from "Don't Carry It All" to "This Is Why We Fight."

2) Middle Brother, Middle Brother. A bit like the Avett Brothers, but way better. Barroom belters and campfire singalongs from an indie "super-group" made up of the singers from Dawes, Deer Tick, and Delta Spirit. Just try to get "Blue Eyes," "Theater," "Wilderness," "Me, Me, Me," "Thanks for Nothing," "Million Dollar Bill," and "Portland" (a Replacements cover) out of your head. I've woken up with them on mental play every morning since I got this at Christmas.

3) Tom Waits, Bad As Me. Another Christmas acquisition and maybe his best record since Rain Dogs (1985), which is saying something. The most gut-wrenching record of the year. "Satisfied" is a kick-ass Stones tribute and "Last Leaf (On the Tree)" brings in Keith Richards to break hearts, like a drunken reading of Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree. He ends with the family tragedy of "New Year's Eve," everyone singing "auld lang syne," cleaning out their belongings, and hitting the road.

4) Steve Earle, I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive. How did the critics overlook this? This holds up against Earle's string of perfect records from the mid-1990s (in particular, Train A-Comin', one of my favorite records by anyone ever), and even charted at #24 on Billboard, his second best showing ever. "Waitin' On the Sky (to Fall)" and "Little Emperor" start it off strong, and "Heaven or Hell" (yup, minus his ambivalence) and "This City" (a hopeful ode to some underwater southerners) send it off in style.

5) Wilco, The Whole Love. Best Wilco since the epic Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2001), which was my best album of the last decade. I'd love "Dawned On Me" even more if it weren't such a perfect inversion of my current existence.

6) Drive By Truckers, Go-Go Boots. Yet another that didn't get the critical props it deserves, maybe because it came so close on the heels of last year's The Big To-Do, which was a mild disappointment. This one is excellent, with "I Do Believe," "Used To Be A Cop," "Everybody Needs Love," and "Mercy Buckets" as standouts. As always, these guys are a PhD dissertation on southern culture sung at 1 AM in a honky tonk.

7) REM, Collapse Into Now. Not quite in the same league with their classic albums from the 80s and 90s, but a fitting valedictory. So long, guys, and thanks.

8) Lucinda Williams, Blessed. Not a lot of representation here from the fairer sex, and this isn't quite on par with either Car Wheels (1998) or Little Honey (2008). Still, a strong set of tunes that fit my mood pretty well, especially "Buttercup."

9) Ryan Adams, Ashes and Fire. As I often say, Adams can make B+ rock in his sleep. But it's been a while since he made a classic album on par with Stranger's Almanac, Heartbreaker, Demolition, or Gold. This isn't it either. A very mellow B+.

10) My Morning Jacket, Circuital. I love these guys, and this is one of the best-reviewed CDs of the year, but it's not quite as compelling as I had hoped. Lots of good pieces but the whole lacks something. Songwriting? Cohesion? I'm not sure, but there's still plenty to like here, especially the title track and "Outta My System."

So that's my list. What did I leave off? Ron Sexsmith, the Black Keys, the Jayhawks, and (Murfreesboro's beloved) the Features all made good records this year that could have taken my final couple of spots, but for one reason or another didn't. I have also been enjoying a record put out by Peter Cooper, the Tennessean's long-time music critic, called Mission Door, which sounds like a silkier blend of Todd Snider and James McMurtry. Not bad for a shit-ass year. Enough of me. I'll let the real writers close it out.

I'm actually fine with how things are turning out I guess
And all my good friends call me wilderness
~ "Wilderness," Middle Brother

I will bring you buckets of mercy
And hold your hand as you're crossing the street
Pay your bail if you need it
And I will be your saving grace
~ "Mercy Buckets," Drive By Truckers

Blood in the water and hell to pay
Sky tear open and pain rain down
Doesn't matter, 'cause come what may
I ain't ever gonna leave this town
This city won't wash away
This city won't ever drown
~ "This City," Steve Earle