Ooh, look how indie he is

For feces and giggles, I just participated in a listmaking exercise with an album-trading group I belong to. We’re compiling the “best albums of the 1980s.” Here was my list.

1.) Tommy Keene – Songs From the Film (1986)
One of the most obscure albums here. A 12-song slab of guitar pop from Washington DC’s most talented, screwed-over musical son (Geffen killed his “commercial” album Based on Happy Times in its crib, and it’s been unavailable ever since).
2.) Ramones – End of the Century (1980)
The single greatest Ramones album, produced by Phil Spector. Not many fans agree with me.
3.) The Go-Betweens – 16 Lovers Lane (1988)
Actually, most critics rate this one highly. Ten songs, split evenly between bandleaders Grant McClennan and Robert Forster, who were in different stages of relationships. McClennan was dating the band’s beautiful multi-instrumentalist Amanda Brown, and his songs are happy. Forster was in the death throes of something with drummer Lindy Morrison, and … guess.
4.) King Crimson – Discipline (1981)
The shapeshifting art rock album by the 1980s incarnation of KC, including probably the most talented progressive rock ensemble ever. Robert Fripp on guitars, Adrian Belew on guitars and vocals, Bill Bruford on drums, Tony Levin on bass.
5.) The Cure – The Head on the Door (1985)
Robert Smith’s breakthrough pop album – the last time he cut a record without oodles of filler.
6.) Husker Du – Warehouse: Songs and Stories (1987)
The two-disc swan song of the Minneapolis hardcore band turned poppy troubadors. You can hear the heroin.
7.) Devo – Freedom of Choice (1980)
Their flawless breakthrough album
8.) Genesis – Abacab (1981)
Same as above, only with a horn section and Phil Collins.
9.) Eric B and Rakim – Follow the Leader(1988)
The greatest MC of all time with his greatest samples and hooks.
10.) Camper Van Beethoven – Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart (1988)
Best album by the Northern California college rock wizards.
11.) Lou Reed – The Blue Mask (1982)
Reed’s darkest, finest album with his best band (including Robert Quine) and most literal, to-the-bone lyrics.
12.) Public Enemy – It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back (1988)
No explanation necessary.
13.) Game Theory – Real Nighttime (1985)
Scott Miller’s Joycean power-pop opus. This is his “Portrait of the Artist of a Young Man” – Lolita Nation is his “Finnegans Wake”.
14.) ‘Til Tuesday – Everything’s Different Now (1987)
Aimee Mann’s collaboration with Jules Shear, and the best work either of them ever did.
15.) Iron Maiden – Iron Maiden (1980)
The metal classic that launched a thousand 20-foot skeleton stage props.
16.) Minutemen – Double Nickels on the Dime (1984)
A 42-song, 60-minute head trip.
17.) The Smiths – The Queen is Dead (1985)
No explanation needed.
18.) Captain Beefheart – Ice Cream for Crow (1982)
A scary man’s scary swan song.
19.) Prince – Purple Rain (1984)
Oh, you know why.
20.) Leonard Cohen – I’m Your Man (1987)
Hilariously produced comeback by the aging anti-crooner.
21.) Bad Brains – I Against I (1986)
You got your metal in my reggae! You got your reggae in my metal! And now it’s all fallen into a vat of punk!
22.) Lloyd Cole and the Commotions – Rattlesnakes (1984)
British power-pop at its apex.
23.) R.E.M. – Murmur (1982)
Obvious reasons.
24.) Japan – Tin Drum (1982)
David Sylvian’s tribute to Asia and pretentiousness. And keyboards.
25.) Robyn Hitchcock – Element of Light (1986)
Best album by the Syd Barrett who didn’t go nuts.

“The new trend of David Weigel worship”

Oh, the things I find when I google myself.

By the by, I was googling myself and my old college paper because Northwestern’s notorious Holocaust denier, Arthur Butz, is in the news.

McCormick Prof. Arthur Butz recently backed Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in comments published by several Iranian news agencies. Calling the Holocaust a myth, Ahmadinejad said Israel should no longer exist as a country. The remarks are causing global controversy.

“I congratulate him on becoming the first head of state to speak out clearly on these issues and regret only that it was not a Western head of state,” Butz said. His comments were reprinted in Saturday’s Chicago Tribune.

This isn’t a cut-and-dry free speech issue. When I was at NU I made a few attempts to contact Butz to speak about his crazy beliefs (I didn’t use the word “crazy”). He told me that he couldn’t, because he had a deal with NU that he wouldn’t talk about his Holocaust research.

If he wasn’t just blowing smoke at me, he made a huge mistake this week. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s canned.


I think it says something about our modern political divisions that the questions of Paul “Powerline guy #3” Mirengoff at a Democratic press conference are seen as utterly stupid on the left and star-in-the-heavens brilliant on the right.

Count me in the “stupid” category, if only by a little. Mirengoff basically restated Alberto Gonzales’ party line on the authorization of force act, then apparently asked if Durbin would sponsor a resolution on the issue in the Senate. (It seems like he was saying that, but Durbin cut him off.) Durbin didn’t acquit himself brilliantly, but as he left he conflated the names of Mirengoff’s employers Powerline and Pajamas Media, and Mirengoff snapped back at him.

DURBIN: I’ll check out Pajamaline, but I’m not familiar with your publication.

MIRENGOFF: Yeah. Dan Rather knows something about it.

Dan Rather? Um, ok. That would have been a great comeback 17 months ago.

There’s a haughtiness about the Pajamas Media crowd that really puts me off. First Roger Simon talks as if his series of detective novels rocked the world off its axis, now this. I think I miss the days when the most famous blogger was a scary goth chick.

*I’m pretty sure I just made a pun on “power glutes.” It’s late.

Make it gay

Um, so “Brokeback Mountain” is now the highest-grossing Academy Award nominee, with $60 million after this weekend. In one or two days, it will pass “Cinderella Man” in overall ticket sales. The gay cowboy movie that cost $14 million and stars the guy from “A Knight’s Tale.” I should have bought stock in crow, because that shit is being eaten left and right these days.

Gosh, I hope “Crash” doesn’t manage to win in an upset. See Ross Douthat on this, although I would add that the dialogue was almost as obvious and bad as that in the 9/11 episode of “The West Wing.”


Dismal (political) science

The Economist’s pro-Republican (note: not pro-right wing) tilt has been annoying me more and more lately. On the one hand, its editors note that the current incarnation of the Republican party is corrupt and incompetent enough to make Boss Tweed blush. On the other hand, they hate on Democrats like bullies on fat kids. For example, this article that paints this year’s Washington Senate race, which fell from first- to second-tier when state GOP golden boy Dino Rossi turned it down, as a barn-burner.

Chris Vance, the party’s combative state chairman, is working hard to depict Ms Cantwell as an “obstructionist”. He also berates her for eschewing outside campaign donations during her 2000 campaign, then quickly accepting them once in office.

Chris Vance quit the party chairmanship a month ago. He did so two months after the Washington GOP had its ass kicked in off-year elections, losing a winnable race for executive in King County (which contains Seattle) as voters voted down a tax cut initiative.

Memo to The Economist’s American editors: I know you have a little riding on their success, but Republicans aren’t doing very well right now. Democrats are winning elections.

Jesus Balks

Because of the Great Cartoon War of 2006, Kanye West’s Rolling Stone cover, where he poses as Jesus on his way to the cross, has garnered a whole bunch of attention from people making the same criticism. Instapundit:

IF KANYE WEST HAD BALLS, he’d pose as Mohammed, instead of Jesus. But he doesn’t. Efforts to be controversial have become so predictable. Yawn.

Fred Barnes, on Fox News:

Look at the current issue of “Rolling Stone Magazine,” it’s a picture of Kanye West, the singer, with a crown of thorns and leaning over as if he’s been crucified. Now this was not an expression of a strong faith in Christianity. I saw it and I was disgusted. On the other hand I did not want to run to the “Rolling Stone” office and shoot somebody, which is a basically a fascist response.

La Shawn Barber:

Liberal editors are a lot smarter than they look. If Rolling Stone had put Kanye West posing as Muhammad on the cover, they’d be in hiding, too. Instead, they chose the safer route: West, a rapper and contributor to the cultural toilet, posing with a crown of thorns on his head.

And so on.

What amazes me about this is that so many people opined on Kanye West without googling his name and “Jesus.” They would have found this.

The single that broke Kanye West was “Jesus Walks,” a catchy-as-hell, down-on-his-knees expression of his Christian faith. He won “Best Rap Song” at the 2005 Grammys for lyrics like this.

I ain’t here to argue about his facial features
Or here to convert atheists into believers
I’m just tryin to say the way school need teachers
The way Kathy Lee needed Regis that’s the way I need Jesus
So here go my single dawg radio needs this
They said you can rap about anything except for Jesus
That means guns, sex, lies, video tape
But if I talk about God my record won’t get played huh
Well if this take away my from spins
Which will probably take away from my ends
Then I hope it take away from sins

It wasn’t Jars of Clay or anything, but it was a hell of a thing to hear on radio. So when Rolling Stone was brainstorming ideas for their first West cover, the Christ motif probably didn’t take long to crop up.

With that said, why this assumption that West’s Christ portrait is offensive?

OK, there’s the “Passion” joke, which is probably a joke at Mel Gibson’s expense more than an equation between West’s career and the sacrifice of the son of Man. Other than that, what’s offensive about this? Is Kanye covered in urine or something? Is there something to make it clear this is a mockery of Christ? Not that I can see. Contrast that with the controversial Mohammed cartoons, which showed the prophet in a police line-up, wearing a bomb for a turban, and sadly telling terrorists that heaven has run out of virgins (among less controversial stuff). Contrast that again with the fact Islam doesn’t allow potrayals of the prophet, but Christianity celebrates potrayals of Christ at pageants and movies like, uh, “The Passion.”

So what’s this all about? My humble guess is that Kanye West – whose lyrics are the most positive and least profane of any successful rapper since P.M. Dawn – made a lot of enemies on the right with his controversial “George Bush doesn’t care about black people” remark. You know, the remark that 90% of blacks seemed to agree with, if you listen to polls or election results. So they didn’t even stop to think about context. They assumed West was mocking Christ because, well, he’s such a nasty young lefty, isn’t he?

And my fellow Christians fall over themselves to sound like idiots, again! Way to go, guys.


Hrm, I could have sworn I had a post up for Friday. No? Well, here’s book #4 for the year.

Marching Through Georgia
by S.M. Stirling

Most alternate history stories start with a huge event, a battle or a famous person’s assassination, going the wrong way. In S.M. Stirling’s opus, history changed because … the Dutch entered the British-American war in 1779. Seizing the opportunity to seize more wealthy territories, the British eventually give up on their North American territories and grab the good parts of the Dutch empire. American Tories can’t flee north anymore, so they go to the Cape colony in South Africa. The British name their colony “Drakesland,” and it becomes a dumping ground for losing sides in the next hundred years of civil and colonial wars. Since many of those new citizens – Tories, Confederates – were slaveholders, the slave system endures and prospers in an empire that eventually takes over all of Africa. By World War I, there are 20 million of them and 180 million “serfs,” and they enter the War to seize the Ottoman Empire. World War II begins with a drastically different menu of world powers. To everyone’s surprise, the Draka (as the people from Drakesland came to be called after 160 years) enter the war on the side of Britain and the US. “Marching to Georgia” concerns the fate of the lead Draka army in the Caucausus, as it attempts to ambush and grind down Nazi forces on the road to Stalingrad.

If I haven’t made it clear enough, this is a weird book. Stirling loves his alternate history and provides 50 pages of footnotes and maps explaining how it all works, but his narrative is more or less a straight military story, with some chapters flashing back to how the main characters met before the Draka entered the war in 1942. The chapters tracing our heroes’ march to Stalingrad are great, but they’re pretty straight-up military writing. Lots of grit, lots of throwing of grenades, lots of cursing. It comes to life when our narration gets handed to a Nazi soldier, and you realize that the Draka are so bad, these guys are the heroes.

Stirling wrote three more books about his “Draka” universe. The next, “Under the Yoke,” is about life in a post-WWII French territory being turned into a plantation. The third, “The Stone Dogs,” is about a nuclear war between the US and the Draka. The final, “Drakon,” is a kind of alternate history version of this alternate history and I don’t think I’ll read it.