notes from
the MUCK . . .

How does your garden grow? With muck, muck and more muck! I spent much of today finishing the final muck box and then shifting muck from one box to the next. The first box, which the Big Lad is enthusiastically pointing out, has been rotting down for two years now and once we’d removed the top quarter of unrotted material, we found we’d hit the pay dirt.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Still The Best Show On TV, And You Aren't Watching It

Here's how it began - an aquaintance with excellent taste in popular culture kept pushing it on me and pushing it on me, saying it might just be his favorite tv show of all time. I'd seen the ads, but had never felt compelled to watch. Just another gritty cop show right? But this recommendation raised my interest a little. After all, this was the same man who turned me onto Freaks and Geeks. Flash forward a year or so. I'm working at the Resource Center with Ben, who asks me for a rental suggestion. I say I can't personally vouch for it, but a trusted critic says The Wire is the show to see. Good enough for Ben, who began watching the first season immediately.

His first report was lukewarm, alluding to a number of cop show cliches, but he liked it enough to continue watching. The next day he came in with a slightly higher opinion of it. He decided to take out the second disc. Each day, his praise and enthusiasm increased as he burned through the first season. There were tales of some guy named Omar. He became an addict before my very eyes.

Ultimately he was so desparate to hold a conversation about what he had seen that he paid for and rented the show for Niki and me. The junkie wanted some company.

So I watched it. This show I had seen the ads for. This gritty cop show. This show that seemed to hold a special power over all who had seen it. Three seasons later I literally find myself on the verge of tears as I think about how great this show truly is.

The Wire has just been renewed for a fifth (and final, I read somewhere) season. It's currently four episodes deep into the fourth year. While it has retained a fanatic and loyal base of viewers, until recently it's been mysteriously overlooked by critics and awards. Now, in light of the new episodes, there's a flurry of acclaim. Stephen King has written an article for EW calling it a "staggering achievement":
The Wire keeps getting better, and to my mind it has made the final jump from great TV to classic TV — put it right up there with The Prisoner and the first three seasons of The Sopranos. It's the sort of dramatic cycle people will still be writing and thinking about 25 years from now, and given the current state of the world and the nation, that's a good thing. ''There,'' our grandchildren will say. ''It wasn't all Simon Cowell.''
That's the reason this show makes me want to cry. As a writer, and as a lover of film and television, The Wire represents something profoundly personal to me. After schooling myself on the classics of cinema when I was 15, I decided I wanted to be a filmmaker. The art form of movies overwhelmed me with its potential, and a great flick left me reeling for months with giddy passion. Somewhere along the line, though, I became jaded. No matter how hard I looked, I could never recapture that feeling. Enter The Wire. This television show makes me remember why I wanted to write in the first place. Sadly, despite my gushing, most of you remain apathetic about its existence.

So what makes it so great? Why is it NOT the show you think it is? Let's consult the critics. Time says:
[It's] an eloquent lament for wasted time, wasted money and wasted lives.
When you come to the end of any of the three complete seasons, you feel like someone has turned the lights on. The tragic nature of what you have just seen sinks in, infects your blood, and leaves you feeling partly responsible for all the waste. It is, ultimately, a poetic requiem for the American Dream, for what could have been.

Entertainment Weekly writes:
The smartest, deepest, and most resonant drama on TV, The Wire spent its third season dredging the murky perversities of the drug underworld, and its foul reflection of capitalism as a whole. The Wire's complexity has doubtlessly contributed to its low ratings — this is a series that punishes casual viewers. But its sticky, interwoven plots, with their economic, political, and racial echoes, make blessed use of serial storytelling.
The number of levels this show succeeds on is mind boggling. Politically, socially, psychologically, dramatically...it's all there. The "serial storytelling" is the package in which this precious gem is presented, and it's one of my favorite aspects of the show. My dad asked me if he could just watch an episode to see if he liked it. Emphatically, no. Can you judge Hamlet by only one scene? Unlike most shows, and certainly unlike other cop shows, each episode of The Wire is not an open and shut case. There's often no resolution at all when the credits roll. Instead, each season deals with one long narrative arc, and it takes its time building its momentum. It works carefully to plant the right seeds and nurture the soil before tending to the plants. The payoffs, therefore, are huge.

From the Philadelphia Daily News:
What "The Wire" is, is the best show on television, and perhaps surprisingly for a series whose focus is often on casual corruption and its not-so-casual consequences, one of the most entertaining.
That's right, entertaining. I can preach all day long about the artistic achievements and the important insights and the glaring honesty of The Wire and blah blah blah, but the bottom line is I wouldn't love it like I do if it weren't so damn watchable. Once you get into it, you're hooked. You're hooked on the dialogue, the humor, the acting, the drama, and the excitement. You gobble it up effortlessly. Then you want to talk about it for three days.

Finally, here's a nice summary by Salon:
"The Wire" is co-written by ex-cop Ed Burns and former Baltimore Sun reporter David Simon, who imbues the show with the kind of stark realism and street-level grittiness he brought as a writer to critical faves "Homicide: Life on the Streets" and HBO's "The Corner." (Simon also wrote "Homicide," the book that the TV series was based on, and he and Burns coauthored "The Corner," another nonfiction work about Baltimore.) Shunning the black-and-white simplicity of most TV police dramas, Simon examines the parallel lives of both the drug dealers and the cops, finding a morally skewed universe where the dealers are pragmatic entrepreneurs and the cops are apathetic political animals driven more by ambition than altruism. Reflecting the nihilistic vision put forth in "Traffic," "The Wire" depicts the drug war as a perpetual, misguided exercise in futility. At the end of the day, the show argues, junkies will be junkies, dealers will be there to supply them, and the system will always be one step behind both of them. As one overzealous detective lectures another in the opening episode, the term "drug war" is a misnomer: "wars end."
There's a great interview with David Simon following that introduction. After you watch the first season, go back and read it. You'll realize how visionary the show is compared to most dramas. There's definitely a point of view, and it isn't hard to reconcile the tone of the show with Simon's answers.

If you've made it this far (and I doubt that you have) I hope you're thinking that maybe you'll give that cop show a chance after all. I can't promise you'll like it - it may simply not be your cup of tea - but if you commit to the 13 episodes of the first season I guarantee you'll at least recognize the qualities we've been talking about here. If you do dig it, sail on. Each season is more sophisticated than the last. I've been liking season four, and I'm nervous about what lies ahead for these characters.

I don't own the first year, but I do have season two if anyone wants to borrow it. Go on now - just one puff won't hurt.

Friday, September 29, 2006

43-43

Latest poll shows James Webb tied with George "Macacawitz" Allen!

Give Webb money. Every little bit helps.

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I've Got Nothing For You

So here, compliments of Pamela Anderson, is the most disturbing slip in the history of nipples:



I can't believe even Kid Rock would want anything to do with that nipple.

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More YouTube

This guy took a picture of himself every day for 8 years. If I had done this, you could watch me sprout a mullet near the 30 second mark. I guess that's everyone's loss.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Things Are Looking Up

I've been feeling pretty despondent about the state of world affairs lately, but on the other hand Paris Hilton has been charged with two misdemeanors and Screech has a sex tape out. Maybe there's hope yet.

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Ditto

So the Republican are going to pass a law this week sanctioning the torture of people accused of being "enemy combatants," which means pretty much anybody they want to torture. The Democrats, meanwhile, are "being careful to say that they ha[ve] made no decision to block" the bill. With the exceptions of Senators Leahy and Feingold, I have yet to see any Democratic Senators speaking out forcefully against this abomination. This is incredibly demoralizing to me. I don't think I can say it any better than this guy already has:
Spineless Democrats Deserve to Lose

I am puzzled by and ashamed of the Democrats' moral cowardice on this bill. The latest version of the bill blesses detainee abuse and looks the other way on forms of detainee torture; it immunizes terrible acts; it abridges the writ of habeas corpus-- in the last, most egregious draft, it strips the writ for alleged enemy combatants whether proved to be so or not, whether citizens or not, and whether found in the U.S. or overseas.

This bill is simply outrageous. I doubt whether many Democratic Senators or staffs have read the bill or understand what is in it. Instead, they seem to be scrambling over themselves to vote for it out of a fear that the American public will think them weak and soft on terror.

The reason why the Democrats have not been doing very well on these issues, however, is that the public does not believe that they stand for anything other than echoing what the Republicans have been doing with a bit less conviction. If the Republicans are now the Party of Torture, the Democrats are now the Party of "Torture? Yeah, I guess so." Not exactly the moral high ground from which to seek office.

The Democrats may think that if they let this pass, they are guaranteed to pick up more seats in the House and Senate. But they will actually win less seats this way. For they will have proved to the American people that they are spineless and opportunistic-- that, when faced with a genuine choice and a genuine challenge, they can keep neither our country nor our values safe.

The current bill, if passed, will give the Executive far more dictatorial powers to detain, prosecute, judge and punish than it ever enjoyed before. Over the last 48 hours, it has been modified in a hundred different ways to increase executive power at the expense of judicial review, due process, and oversight. And what is more, the bill's most outrageous provisions on torture, definition of enemy combatants, secret procedures, and habeas stripping, are completely unnecessary to keep Americans safe. Rather, they are the work of an Executive branch that has proven itself as untrustworthy as it is greedy: always pushing the legal and constitutional envelope, always seeking more power and less accountability.

If the Democrats do not stand up to the President on this bill, if they refuse to filibuster it or even threaten to filibuster it, they do not deserve to win any additional seats in the House or in the Senate. They will have delivered a grievous blow to our system of checks and balances, stained America's reputation around the world, and allowed an obscenity to disfigure the American system of law and justice. Far worse than a misguided zealot is the moral coward who says nothing and allows that zealotry to do real harm.

I'm sorry to steal the guy's whole post, but I agree with every word of it and think everyone ought to read it. If the Democrats, who last I checked still had 44 Senators (plus an Independent), are not willing to go to whatever lengths it takes to stop this legislation, then I honestly don't see the point of electing them. I mean, fuck it, if they're too scared to come out against torture, then they don't deserve to be in charge any more than the Republicans do.

We on the left have been hectored for years about not sharing the country's "values." Well, I have some values, too. And one of them is that my country doesn't torture people. To hell with any politician - Republican or Democrat - who isn't willing to stand up for that value.
__________

Update: Here is a page that will allow you to send e-mails opposing this legislation to both of your Senators and your Representative at the same time. Use it.

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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Flavour Country

Some blogs give you pictures of themselves as children in funny dance costumes. Me? Well I'd like to share the time I first had a cigarette with you all*.



* Kid featured not actually me. Kid featured may or may not have been exploited.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Oil, What Is It Good For $

The Guardian:

ExxonMobil is the world's most profitable corporation. Its sales now amount to more than $1bn a day. It makes most of this money from oil, and has more to lose than any other company from efforts to tackle climate change. To safeguard its profits, ExxonMobil needs to sow doubt about whether serious action needs to be taken on climate change. But there are difficulties: it must confront a scientific consensus as strong as that which maintains that smoking causes lung cancer or that HIV causes Aids.
Jesus. That's a pretty big obstacle right? I mean, there's a consensus, and there's a consensus. Why, in years to come I'm sure it will be filed alongside the "world is round"* assertion . Don't worry though, ExxonMobil haven't let that get them down. They've paid money to lots of organisations to shed doubt upon, marginalise, ridicule, and more or less deny that such a consensus exists.

These organisations are a pretty varied bunch, the only unifying thread being that they have no real credibility to comment on the subject. People who do, have sent a letter to ExxonMobil asking them to stop this practise. I'm sure Exxon will do the right thing.

In related news, NFTM would like to reveal that a mystery source from the NRA has approached the Muck to offer us a certain quota of comments per post in exchange that we take a policy line saying that there is no proof of a link between people being shot and then dying a painful death. Hey, correlation isn't necessarily causation, right?


The world, flat or otherwise, wonders silently whether it's too late to take out a life insurance policy.


*I know, it's an oblique spheroid. Happy nerds?

** Easy there NRA members, no such meeting took place. We can confirm that all males among you have penisis that could relax in the shade of an acorn. You can quote us on that.

Satisfied Customer

People alway want to know, "Matthew, why do you blog?" To them I say, thanks for asking! This, right here, is why I blog:

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Disaster

There's some great stuff happening on the internets today and much of it deserves to be blogged, but unfortunately this is one of those busy days and I can't give events the attention they need. However, we'd never allow the death of a cuddly creature to go unmentioned on the Muck, and by the same token we'd be remiss not to pause momentarily and reflect on the demise of PopoZao.
[Kevin Federline's] debut CD “Playing With Fire” hits shelves on Halloween, but his much-derided ode to ladies' derrieres, “PopoZao,” reportedly won't make the cut. It's being replaced, reports WENN, by a duet with Britney Spears called “Crazy.”

PopoZao, we hardly knew you. Rest easy, you Brazilian ass-shaker, you.

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Shocking

Three former college football teammates of Sen. George Allen say that the Virginia Republican repeatedly used an inflammatory racial epithet and demonstrated racist attitudes toward blacks during the early 1970s.

"Allen said he came to Virginia because he wanted to play football in a place where 'blacks knew their place,'" said Dr. Ken Shelton, a white radiologist in North Carolina who played tight end for the University of Virginia football team when Allen was quarterback. "He used the N-word on a regular basis back then."

A second white teammate, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he feared retribution from the Allen campaign, separately claimed that Allen used the word "nigger" to describe blacks. "It was so common with George when he was among his white friends. This is the terminology he used," the teammate said.

A third white teammate contacted separately, who also spoke on condition of anonymity out of fear of being attacked by the Virginia senator, said he too remembers Allen using the word "nigger," though he said he could not recall a specific conversation in which Allen used the term. "My impression of him was that he was a racist," the third teammate said.
No. Not Senator George Allen! These three guys must be mistaken. Senator Allen has just re-dedicated his life to promoting tolerance and diversity. Must be time for another "ethnic rally."
__________

Update: Jesus Christ. I hadn't read the second page of the Salon article yet when I posted.
Shelton said he also remembers a disturbing deer hunting trip with Allen on land that was owned by the family of Billy Lanahan, a wide receiver on the team. After they had killed a deer, Shelton said he remembers Allen asking Lanahan where the local black residents lived. Shelton said Allen then drove the three of them to that neighborhood with the severed head of the deer. "He proceeded to take the doe's head and stuff it into a mailbox," Shelton said.
George Allen is one sick twisted bastard.

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Friday, September 22, 2006

Everybody now...

It was over a year ago when Matthew called me into his office to show me this video. It's Ali G actor Sacha Cohen in his Borat mode going into an Arizona bar to see how they will react to a wildly anti semitic song in some country and western bar.

First off I thought how funny it was for him to do that and gain such a positive reaction, stupid red necks.

Another part of me was trying to fight the urge not to join in. This is how evil spreads people...

Public Service Announcements

1. The phone number to Himalayan Fusion apparently was not listed anywhere on the internet.

(434) 293-3120

Now it is.
____________________


2. Check out the new HP digital camera with special "slimming" feature.


Freaky, huh?

via Feministing.

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Thursday, September 21, 2006

Yikes

Write one nasty post about a U.S. Senator, and look who comes to visit:

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How Not to Run for President

1. Paste the Confederate flag all over your car and home. Wear a Confederate flag lapel in your yearbook photo.

2. Hang a noose from a ficus tree in your law office. For added hilarity, later say that it was "more of a lasso."

3. Pose in a picture with members of the Council of Conservative Citizens, the next best thing to the actual KKK (CCC, get it?).

4. Claim that none of this is evidence of hatred, but just pride in your heritage.

5. Abuse and terrorize your sister growing up. If possible, have her write a book about it.

6. Single out the only brown person at your campaign rally and ridicule him as "macaca." Claim that you made the word up on the spot, even though it's a French racial slur and your mother is French Tunisian. Just to drive the point home, call the brown guy "macaca" again, and welcome him to America and the real world of Virginia. Make sure the guy is holding a video camera.

7. When rumors surface that your maternal grandfather was Jewish, react angrily and accuse anyone who brings the subject up of "making aspersions" about your family. Indignantly claim that your mother was, as far as you know, raised Christian.

8. Have your mother grant an interview in which she states that a month before you claimed that as far as you knew she was raised Christian, she told you in response to your question about it that she was raised as a Jew. Having exposed you as a liar, have her add that after she told you this, she bizarrely said "Now you don't love me anymore."

There. Now you will never be President.

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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Psssssstttt....

Wanna tranquilize a sheep? Of course you do, you have a pulse. Go here. Enjoy.

From,

Ambling Armadillo. (.30018 "quickest time").

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Shame

Washington Post:
Canadian intelligence officials passed false warnings and bad information to American agents about a Muslim Canadian citizen, after which U.S. authorities secretly whisked him to Syria, where he was tortured, a judicial report found Monday.

.....

[Ottowa computer consultant Maher] Arar, now 36, was detained by U.S. authorities as he changed planes in New York on Sept. 26, 2002. He was held for questioning for 12 days, then flown by jet to Jordan and driven to Syria. He was beaten, forced to confess to having trained in Afghanistan -- where he never has been -- and then kept in a coffin-size dungeon for 10 months before he was released, the Canadian inquiry commission found.
Remember how Bush used to blather on about how one of the reasons we had to overthrow Saddam Hussein was because of his "torture rooms?" Ironic, isn't it?

What can any of us do, apart from working to throw Republicans out of power, to put an end to the war crimes that are being committing in our names? When I stop and think about what my country is actually doing in the world today, I'm literally nauseated. And yet, there's no real protest as far as I can tell. I'm going to go about my business today, collecting car repair estimates, putting in a day at the office, going out for jabbercrusties at lunchtime, hanging out with my kids, reading War and Peace, and watching an episode of Deadwood. Meanwhile, my government will be abducting innocent people and secreting them to prisons in the far corners of the world where they will be held incommunicado for years and tortured into giving false confessions. Ho-hum.

I have no doubt whatsoever that my grandchildren are going to look back at this time the same way that I look at the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII. They're going to wonder how people like me allowed this to happen and how much I did to stop it. The answer is, pathetically little.

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Thursday, September 14, 2006

Guessing Game

What is this a picture of?

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Tale End.

A wizened old prune of a man, my great grandchildren clamour round me, tugging at my sleeves, my shoes and even my beard, urging me to tell them the remainder of the story of the mouse that haunted my dreams one weekend. I pretend that I'm asleep and am not to be disturbed or touched, drooling some, kicking a little here and there, and being pretty liberal with the flatulence. Alas, they do not desist, and I awake, cursing as if I am the me from decades earlier who has just caught sight of a smug looking cat waltzing up and down my own hallway. Some of the children cry, and their parents tell them that Pappy Benji was just clearing his throat, and was dreaming of bad people "like the doggy does". I eat the last chocolate biscuit, and more of the kids cry. I tell them they can have peanuts and that allergies are for the weak.

Pacified by this small storm I straighten up my concertinaed old back, carefully arrange crumbs into my beard into a position for optimum spray, and begin the tale of the mouse that haunted my dreams one weekend (that is not as good as Matt's little story).

The year was 2006, and Summer was beginning to realise that it was silly to hang around anymore and that it was time to go get drunk instead of shining it's sweet rays onto the people below. I was a mere pluck of a lad who took teenagers bowling and suffered from severe anxiety when I could not find a way to lose to them. My room was my sanctum, my fortress, my den, my cinema and my niche. One night, whilst deep in slumber I awoke one night to the unmistakable sound of a small rodent busying itself amongst my rolled up posters beneath me (I slept in a loft bed). I turned up my radio and rolled back over to sleep. In the morning, my mind had relegated the incident to the status of an insignificant dream, and I went about my business as usual.

Then one night I SAW the mouse whilst watching a DVD. I was at once draped in a cloak woven of fear, annoyance and excitement, the latter because I thought it make a good blog post on catching the creature in a humane trap. How wrong I was. Little did I know that the fear would eventually morph into an all in one jump suit with no buttons or zip that would only unhand me when it decided.

Later that weekend, after I had spent a good portion of my hard earned cash on an electric mouse repellent and humane trap, I prepared for a good nights sleep. When I think of that poor man child that was once myself laying his head down, being so drunk on naivity and plain stupidity as to believe that the night would bring anything but horror, I spit on the ground below me, and a tear weeps for the child I will never be again.

Sleep came to me soon but was an infrequent visitor. On several occasions I seemingly awoke, engulfed in the folds of darkness of my room not knowing even if I was awake, or, more chillingly, what I had been awoken by. The room was so still I felt suffocated, and my ears strained for tell tale scrabblings from below. My targets should have been directed much closer, however, and my sense of touch, not hearing, should have been employed.

Above my quilt, I felt the quivering, rapid movement of a tiny body moving at great pace. I froze, and ensured my head and all limbs were concealed beneath said quilt. I do not know how long I stayed in this state for I do not know how to measure a time that may not have even taken place. If fear be the hands on that particular clock however, then surely civilisations would be born and destroyed with the smallest of movements.

Sleep returned, my reluctant saviour, but not for long. Throughout the night I felt little bodies invading my quilted cocoon to touch my feet. Again and again, the fear, the wait, silence, and then they returned. Down below a storm raged, the trap seemed to rattle and shake as if straining to contain a rampant tiger rather than a nervous rodent. No radio would help me now. The world was over, and I was to be tormented forever.

Merciful morning came and somehow I managed to stumble from my bed into the joyous world of breakfast and morning tv. I convinced myself that I had been plagued by nothing but nightmares and busied myself with the day. Then I saw the trap. It was shut. It had been knocked from its perch by some force. It was empty. My heart ran cold. I needed this creature out of the house, soon, now. When I went back for the trap however, it had disapeared, the dog had chewed it all up. Had my dog now chosen sides with the animal kingdom against me to ensure the torture, real or imagined continued? I couldn't tell, but I felt alone. Cold and alone.

Having returned from a trip to the hardware shop, where I was the last person allowed in before closing, with an even more advanced repellent and a replacement trap, I entered the evening in a confident mood. Whilst watching a DVD, more scrabbles were heard. I could detect quick movement out of the side of my eye that vanished as soon as I turned towards it. Maybe it was my hair, maybe it was the tv's reflection, maybe it was the creature. I sat firm, watching my movie.

Then it came out. A tiny little mouse, grey, and scared. It was actually quite endearing, I reached to take a picture of it but it detected my movement and scuttled away behind my chest of drawers. Quickly, I moved the trap to cover where it had just come out from, folded my arms and played the waiting game. I didn't have to wait long. I didn't see the mouse again, I heard a swift pitter patter, and the sound of the trap closing and rocking back with the weight of it's cargo. I picked it up, the strength of the thing was incredible, enormous. It must've been the King Kong of mice. I was going to put it at the bottom of the garden but my brother said he would release it on the common that night, which he did.

I don't think I've slept sounder than I have done on that night. The sun was a bright beaming blue when I awoke, and the sun massaged my eyelids: summer was back for an encore, or at least a victory lap. I took my dog out with a fresh spring in my step, even though my life had been unloaded of around 10 grammes of matter, it felt like an effort not to float to the moon, or even to Pluto to commiserate about it's minor planet status. The dog looked so happy, bounding here and there in the long sun dappled grass, and the whole sunday stretched out like an undiscovered beach.

Boy that dog was happy, leaping around, playing without a care in the world..."What's that you got girl?"...She had fixed her attention on something and was playing with it. Small enough, hmmm, maybe it could choke her, what is it? Grey, small, "Oh Jesus Bella Drop it, bad dog, BAD DOG...DROP IT, DROP IT NOW!!!"

Bella bounded away from her prize. I looked down upon it, a dead, grey, house mouse, twisted and drenched. A cloud covered the sun, and I shivered.

I asked my brother where he released the mouse, and he said it was quite far away from where the corpse was found. Did that make me feel better? I cannot get the picture of the little thing just sitting there with its front paws up out of my mind. Nor can I cast aside the notion that there is another mouse lying in wait for me to forget about the possibility of its existance before striking in vengence for its fallen brother.

Whether it was or was not the mouse that did or did not climb up my loft bed stairs to torture me I cannot doubt that the whole episode wore away something of the gleam in my eye and contributed to the cooling of this old man's heart that means he takes joy out of preventing small kids from sitting on the seat at the front of the bus. (More on that later).

Keep watching the shadows....

Two Pictures, No Nipples

This dude stopped shaving on September 11, 2001, and vowed that he would let his beard grow until Osama bin Laden was caught or killed:


This is none other thank Cate Blanchett dressed up like Bob Dylan for the filming of I'm Not There, a new movie described as "ruminations on the life of Bob Dylan," in which seven different actors will portray him. That could be really interesting, or it could suck hard.

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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

War and Fucking Peace, Pt. 1

Just so you know, Jeff and I are, in fact, reading War and Peace and yes, it IS, like, really long. Really, really long.

So last night I skimmed the introduction - I pretty much hate introductions, they only seem to make sense after you've already read the damn book - and tackled the first 4 chapters, or approximately 26 pages. My very flexible goal is going to be 25 pages per day, which if I adhered to, which I won't, would mean that I'd be finishing the book just before Thanksgiving, which I also won't.

After a rocky start (the opening didn't exactly grab me), I was pleasantly suprised to find that the book was quite readable. I have discovered two tools that will be indispensable: (1) the dictionary widget in my OSX dashboard, and (2) wikipedia. Thank God for wireless internet access; I don't know how anybody read this book 25 years ago.

I can see already that my perfect ignorance of European history will be a hindrance. I vaguely sensed that Napolean Bonaparte was an important guy who didn't always play nice with others, but apparently he was a BIG DEAL in Russia in and around 1812. Who knew? Perhaps a little primer on the French Revolution and Napoleanic Wars will be necessary. Is this the kind of thing they teach in high school?

Anyway, I was interested to learn that Tolstoy was writing about events that were not very far removed in time. Somehow in my head, because 1812 is ancient history to me, I had assumed it was to Tolstoy, too, which makes absolutely no sense but there you have it. In fact, the book opens in 1805 shortly after Napolean was coronated as King of Italy (thanks, Wikipedia!), and Tolstoy was born in 1828. He probably also knew, or had relatives who knew, many of the major players. For example, the Russian military commander Mikhail Kutuzov (thanks, Wikipedia!) is mentioned repeatedly in the first few chapters and presumably will be a significant character in the book. When Kutuzov died in 1813 he had no male heir and so his estate passed to the Tolstoy family (thanks, Wikipedia!). So this would be a little bit like me writing an epic historical novel set in the Korean War, only that my family ran in the same circles as MacArthur and inherited all his money when he died. This, I imagine, might color my opinion of some of the players. So, banal as the observation might be, it suprised and interested me to learn that Tolstoy had ties to and possibly personal biases about many of the historical figures in the novel.

Stay tuned for at least two more months of such insipid observations and speculations! Incidentally, we're reading the Maude Translation if anyone wants to get in on this sweet, sweet project.

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Monday, September 11, 2006

Happy Patriot Day!

Since the day has come and gone without my managing to find anything to blog (it was actually a very busy day), it seems that I owe you all a nipple. In honor of Patriot Day and the 5-year anniversary of Septemeber 11, I'm going with an Uncle Sam theme today. The following nipple slip occurred during the singing of our glorious national anthem by Lucy Lawless (Xena: Warrior Princess) at an NHL hockey game in Anaheim, CA, on May 6, 1997.


Take that, Osama!

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I Guess We Remain the Same

September 9th marked what would have been Otis Redding's 65th birthday had he not tragically died in a plane crash. I missed this date and for that I am sorry. For those of you who only know Otis by "Sitting on the Dock of the Bay", I urge you to invest in a greatest hits to better educate yourself. I'd say he's without peer and his recording career spanned a measly seven years, he sure as hell didn't mess around.

This site does more justice than I ever could to the man himself. Hurry, you'll get some great tracks by the man; I recommend the live version of "Satisfaction", "Cigarettes and Coffee", "A Change is Gonna Come" and, well, all of them to be honest. Enjoy.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Attempting Cool

My goal was to find a cheap(ish) hotel in Santa Monica, so I could be very close to the beach during my 3 nights in LA. Tried Expedia, Hotels.com, Sidestep, etc...it was all out of my price range. So I gave Priceline a try - only I screwed up and accidentally selected the Beverly Hills/Hollywood area. The request went through, got accepted, and now I'm staying at the Hyatt on Sunset Boulevard. This is somewhat disappointing, but there's definitely a bright side. First of all, I saved over %50 off the regular rate. More importantly, however, this hotel is apparently famous as a former 'party' hotel for big rock stars of the 60's annd 70's. Here are some facts from Wikipedia:

* Led Zeppelin rented as many as six floors of the hotel in the mid-to-late 1970s for the band members and entourage. Drummer John Bonham was reported to have driven a motorcycle along the hallways.
* Room 1015 bears the distinction of being where Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards dropped a TV out the window. The Who's Keith Moon was also reported to had dropped a TV out of one of the hotel's windows.
* Scenes in the film Almost Famous which depict the hotel were filmed at the actual hotel. Parts of the hotel were refurbushed with exactly the same decor as existed there in the 1970s.
* The scene from Almost Famous in which Russell Hammond cries out, "I am a Golden God!" is a reference to Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant who allegedly said the same thing while looking over Sunset Strip from one of the hotel's balconies in 1975.
* The end-of-tour party scene in the film This is Spinal Tap was filmed on the roof of the hotel.
* Little Richard lived at the hotel through much of the 1980s and 1990s
* Jim Morrison lived there until he was reportedly evicted by management for hanging out a window by his fingertips, dangling over the pavement.

And here's some relevant dialogue from the Almost Famous screenplay:
RUSSELL
(privately)
So. You want to come up to L.A., we'll
be at the "Riot House" all week.

WILLIAM
"The Riot House?"

RUSSELL
The Continental Hyatt House! It's on
Sunset Strip.

WILLIAM
(attempting cool)
Right. Right.


The Riot House is also home to CHI, a new restaraunt owned by none other than Justin Timberlake. It's apparently somewhat of a shitty celebrity favorite, so I need to print Notes From the Muck press passes immediately.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Slowly Slowly Catchee Mousey


A little while ago we had a mouse problem. The problem being we had them in the house and we did not want them there. It was really stressful, and at one point poison was bought to deal with the situation. I didn't want dead mice on my watch, so I tried catching them in a humane trap (pictured above). It's pretty simple. You put some food at the end which is raised to tempt the little critters in. They go in, their weight tips the trap, and closes the door. You check it regularly, and release what you find back into nature. Beautiful.

I did this for about 2 weeks and caught 2 mice. Sometimes we found the trap open, and all the food gone. At night we could hear the mice laughing at us, throwing little parties, moonwalking, body popping and downing beers. They sure loved that Moroccan humus I put out for them. It was a unique feeling of excitement and fear that overwhelmed me when I saw the trap shut, and heard quick, scurrying movements coming from it. I took it to a nearby park and let it go, Jesus it was quick. Twice this happened, and we heard no more of the mice parties, and presumed that was that.

The other night I woke up to hear a scratching sound coming from a corner of my room. There was no doubt about what it was; a mouse. Sensibly I turned up my radio to drown out the sound and went back to sleep. I forgot the incident in the morning until a couple of evenings ago while watching a dvd I actually saw one coming along the skirting board towards me. Sensibly, I got up, left the room, had some orange juice, and returned. I put a poster down over the skirting board and carried on watching the dvd. Deep down, I knew more needed to be done though.

The trap has been found, baited with coleslaw, and set. Updates will follow as I get inside the mind of my nemesis and strive to end this ugly chapter in the Soesman household. Farewell, and adieu.

The trap, the black blob on the skirting board, waits, mouth open, for it's prize.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Sounds About Right

"Let me explain the government to you. There’s God, then there’s the president and then there’s my father.”

— Jack Roberts, 6-year-old son of Chief Justice John Roberts, overheard speaking to one of his young peers on the last day of summer camp

Little Shit

link

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Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Stop the Presses!

A mere 28 weeks after I discovered the GOP Babe of the Week website, they have replaced Kim Smith with new conservative eye candy. Meet Diana Irey, Republican candidate for Congress in Pennsylvania's 12th. Be sure to check back on March 26, 2007, when we'll be due for another GOP Babe of the Week Bi-Annual Babe.

Posted without comment.

As an aside, what is it about cable TV for inmates that so infuriates conservatives? Ms. Irey boasts on her website that as Washington County Commissioner she "voted against giving cable TV to prison inmates." Sure, taking their cable away will piss off the inmates, but the people it will really punish are the prison guards. What does Ms. Irey think inmates are going to do when they don't have cable TV to watch? Find Jesus? Haiku? No, they're going to make hooch in their toilets, give each other blowjobs, riot, and have more time to annoy their lawyers. What I want to know is why this purportedly upstanding conservative voted in favor of more raisin wine and sodomy for prisoners. For Christ's sake, just let 'em have their ESPN.

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Recognize

On the front page of the Dylan Pool right now:

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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Soupy Poopy

14 minutes ago my dad told me about one of his favorite dishes as a child. He and my Uncle Roy would put a couple of biscuits in a bowl, pour coffee over them, and eat the resulting mixture with a fork. This is called "soupy poopy."

Among his other childhood muckamuck treats:

-macaroni and bread
-macaroni and potatoes
-mustard sandwiches (apply mustard to single slice of bread, fold in half, enjoy)
-mayonnaise sandwiches (same as above, but with mayonnaise)
-bananas and mayonnaise, mashed

As for that last one, you haven't lived until you've watched a grown man spoon this sloppy concoction into his smiling, eager mouth.

If anyone would like to try one of these, my dad would be more than happy to send you a recipe.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Good Bye Stevo

And so it was that I awoke to the news that Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter, had died in a tragic accident. He was killed when a stingray's barb pierced his chest whilst he was filming off the Great Barrier Reef.

Like many, my first impressions of Stevo were of a man with a death wish who would antagonise animals on purpose. Watching more of him though it was obvious he was a deeply committed, passionate conservationist who made it near impossible not to share his enthusiasm for nature.

He provided iconic character and imagery, the wildly happy man holding one of the most deadly snakes just inches from his face against the striking back drop of the arrid Australian desert and its booming blue sky was always a welcome guest in millions of homes across the world including mine.

His message was always that we should appreciate just how fragile nature is, and that we should never forget that we are only a small part of it. His death is a sharp reminder of that fact.

Here's a nice clip of him at his zoo showing off one of his crocs with his wife Terri commentating. Rest in Peace Stevo. We'll miss you.

1984 Pop Idol


And the winner is...Nik, who correctly guessed that the lady boy above is in fact......


Hard to believe no?

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Sunday Morning Coming Down...

It's Sunday. I'm not hung over, but I was rudely awoken this morning and feel I am owed something. I got some free cool music courtesy of XFM, a lovely station who are dedicated to alternative and peculiar music (though they are pretty mainstream a lot of the time). They were the home of Ricky Gervais and Steven Merchant for sometime, and still come back to host their show from time to time when they're not writing stuff that makes you want turn inside out.

Anywho, the deal is, you email one of the DJ's, Iain Baker, and he sends you links to loads of downloads. I did it for the first time and thought I'd share with you. If this doesn't work, or is illegal in anyway, I'll pull it down, but they're all links to other blogs and wot not, and they're giving them away for free, so I don't see the harm.

Anywho, enjoy them while you can, and thank you X FM.

Raconteurs and Lou Reed do MTV (With some killers as well).

Some Lovely Covers, Radiohead doing Pink Floyd, Arcade Fire grapple with the Yeah Yeah Yeah's maps, and Snow Patrol do Beyonce
.

Classic Reggae

Polyphonic Spree on Lithium; Kurt may approve
.

Im a robot. Don't know if they are robots, but they're pretty damn catchy...

That's all for now...

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Ah, 1984...

"Pop" question muck heads, who's this young Bowie look a like on the right who went on to become much more famous in this century in a slighty wider, funnier format??

Answer, or maybe clues, soon if no-one gets it.




UPDATE: SEPTEMBER 3RD 19.25 GMT, 2.25 ET.

You will be VERY suprised when you find out who it is, but at the same time I think you can see the resemblence between the past and present even if it is pretty distant...

They are from the UK, are big time dancers, and if you don't know who it is by now, you will never never never know, whooooo, ittttt, iiiissss...

Friday, September 01, 2006

Ah, 1983

Tom Waits Sounds Better In Cleveland

Perhaps it's just the overcast weather, but whatever the reason Tom Waits just sounds better here.

We'll be back to C'ville some time Tuesday and will resume nipple posting.

Meanwhile, have a happy Labor Day, bearing in mind that it's really a
ploy by the bourgeoisie to keep the American working man down.

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