Monkey Media Report Archive

A North Carolina
news and arts Weblog
February 2005

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2.24.05 - Look, face it. Google-worship sucks. Centralization of power is bad, and painting a completely happy face on the astonishing lack of accountability of the world's most-used search engine has always been stupid. And if Dave Winer's explanation of Google Toolbar's new Autolink feature is accurate, then we are really in a new world of trouble. Southern Rants puts it succinctly:

The most important point Winer makes is that it's not about technology. It's about making a HUGE change on the Web, our new social nexus, without discussion. See, he and I are old enough to remember when no one would do such a thing without taking it to ISOC or some such org. It needs discussion. It needs consideration. That's what Google doesn't understand.

Oh, I'll bet they understand, all right. They just don't care. [via Ed Cone] [link]

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2.23.05 - So, have you ever looked at your hands? I mean, really looked at your hands? Try it sometime.

I've mentioned this before, but one of the great things about having a day job at a used book and music store is the constant flow of information that passes through my fingers. The amount of data that comes into my life simply by touching books and CDs on a daily basis is, well, astonishing. Not to mention there's something about turning the pages of a classic, goofy Eudora Welty story between customers that surpasses almost any of the fringe benefits I've gotten at other jobs. (Yeah, ok, I have low career expectations. Sue me. At least I have health insurance.)

Good lord, it just occured to me I don't know what this post is about. I'd guess it's that health insurance link, but it's time for bed so I'll leave you to figure it out for yourself. [link]

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2.23.05 - Via the newly awakened old school blog Robot Wisdom - a great bet for sharp, quirky political browsing, if the past is any indication - comes "Panning for Hope," a cynical yet uplifting set of reasons for keeping despair at bay (from the always interesting progressive writer Sam Smith). It's difficult to pick a fave, but here's the current frontrunner:

THE RED STATE MYTH - The red state myth is the latest form of self-abuse by liberals. In 39 states Democrats are either comfortably ahead or could win by changing the minds of just five percent of the electorate. Further, the number of states solidly Republican has been declining since 1972, not surprising since the party's strength has been based on unsupportable economic, social, and environmental ideas. If the Democrats would stop worrying about the red-blue business and start being nicer to people in the red states, they will be on their way to a far more successful politics.

No, wait. This is the frontrunner:

ARCHAIC MEDIA - The establishment is losing control of the media. Print circulation is going down, the Internet is for the elite painfully democratic, and the public no longer treats members of the archaic media with respect. All this favors positive change.

No, no; it's this:

TENSIONS WITHIN THE GOP - Both true conservatives and true libertarians are showing signs of stress as the Bush administration betrays such classic principles as the decentralization of power and budgetary restraint. A roundtable sponsored by America's Future Foundation raised an aspect of the question: "Conservatives and Libertarians: Can This Marriage Be Saved?" It noted in its invitation that increasingly the "ideological marriage has been punctuated by long, sustained spats: over war, gay marriage, stem-cell research, and a host of other issues. Just another rocky patch, or is it time for a divorce?"

Oh, hell, choose your own adventure from Smith's thoughtful and inspiring list. I will, however, strongly disagree with his last hopeful sign. Looking to tired old corporate Europe to "serve as an alternative to America" - instead of looking to a new generation of protesters in places like China, India, South Korea, Mexico and Iran - seems a bit silly. How long do smart U.S. citizens have to wait for voters in England, France and Germany to elect politicians who really begin distancing themselves from U.S.-style corporate warmongering?

My money's on that particular revolution starting on another continent. [link]

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2.23.05 - Ha. A friend wanted to make sure I saw this particular disturbing auction.
Thanks a lot. [link]

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2.23.05 - Sean Wilson, president of Pop the Cap, a lobbying group working to repeal North Carolina's insanely patronizing 6% cap on alcohol by volume in beers sold in the state, has posted a couple of pics from his appearance last week on Monkeytime TV. Pop the Cap is a coalition of homebrewers, businesses and beer fans angry that "a third of the world's beer styles" can't be purchased in NC. The real kicker for me was this sentence:

Of the fifty top beers on BeerAdvocate.com, only a handful can be legally sold in North Carolina.

Good lord. It's astonishing that NC is one of only 5 states left with a post-Prohibition limit on the alcohol content in beer, and quite revealing that the Tarheel elite of 1935 didn't feel a need to cap the alcohol content of, say, wine. What an anti-working class piece of garbage that law was.

This is a cause all but the most blue-balled Puritans should be getting behind (plus, the "Keep your laws off my barley" shirt is brilliant). Email news@popthecap.org to join, and then wait for the signal to contact legislators. The group seems to be playing the political game just right, hiring a lobbyist and getting legislators drunk in good ol' fashioned style, so it looks good for eliminating at least one small embarrassment to the state this year. Join the party. [link]

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2.23.05 - There's a great little behind-the-scenes history of private Social Security accounts in yesterday's Washington Post. It's most interesting for revealing 1) the recent split between the idea's early proponents and 2) the nakedness with which fundie free-marketeers announce their intention to dismantle the semi-socialist safety net most Americans (and humans, I'd venture) prefer to live with:

Cato's privatization effort was aimed from the start not just at dismantling Social Security but also at making major inroads against what it considered an overweening central government. "Social Security," said David Boaz, Cato's executive vice president, "is the linchpin of the welfare state."

To Cato critics like the Brookings Institution's Henry J. Aaron, Cato's goal was to "topple the great monument of 20th-century liberalism." [...]

In the fall of 1983, Cato made clear that it was preparing for a protracted fight. It published a paper by Heritage Foundation scholars Stuart M. Butler and Peter Germanis that called for "guerrilla warfare against both the current Social Security system and the coalition that supports it." They compared the drive to Nikolai Lenin's effort to undermine capitalism: "Lenin well knew to be a successful revolutionary one must also be patient and consistently plan for real reform."

Now, just to be clear, I like the Cato Institute; I have strong free-market libertarian leanings (see the permalink above to Reason's "Hit and Run" blog), and have always been fascinated by the similarities between radically capitalist and radically anarchist ideal worlds. But rigid black-and-white fundamentalism has always made me sneer, and the particular brand of absolutist thinking among the worst Cato hacks - those who insist on the existence of a rigid line between capitalism and socialism - seems to me like nothing so much as the absolutist crap that passes for thinking among fundie religous partisans.

Fuck that noise. Anyway, the Post article is an interesting sidelong look at an issue most folks won't bother to follow. Don't be like most folks. [link]

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'I would feel real trapped in this life if I didn't know
I could commit suicide at any time'

2.22.04 - So another hero just offed himself. Why does this not depress me to the point of suicide?

Gosh, I dunno. Maybe it's because suicide has always been a thoughtful, last-resort option for folks in pain and at the end of their lives. Or maybe it's because I know it's impossible to really understand the severity of the darkness in another monkey's head at any given time. Or, less bleakly, perhaps it's because I suspect Hunter made a pact with himself long ago to choose the time of his own end, rather than wait for this obviously fucked-up, hilariously unjust universe to do it for him. Like, "Fuck you, universe. You obviously don't give a shit about fairness, so I'll decide when I die."

I kind of like that thought, which probably explains why I'm not pulling my hair out at the thought of HST sticking a shotgun in his mouth and pulling the trigger. C'est la morte, you know?

Anyway, you're forgiven if you didn't slog through to the end of the poignant HST obituary thread at MeFi, but for god's sake make sure you read Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72, which is among the most hilariously on-point pieces of political reporting ever written, described by one contemporary observer as “the least accurate yet most truthful” account of that freakish campaign. It's a brilliant mix of perfectly tuned observation, outrageous exaggeration and deeply personal (if not outright anguished) revelation. Local newspaper editors won't get it, but you will.

And as you read longtime Thompson collaborator Ralph Steadman's obit in the Independent, keep in mind this thought from Bendy, posted to alt.music.chapel-hill yesterday:

As someone raised by a hard-drinkin', big-game-shootin' journalist born in the 1930's, I can tell you that the shadow of Hemingway looms large for the alpha-males of that generation. Kerouac too. This one seemed as predictable as Spaulding Grey, in retrospect.

Ouch. That's quite a fucking shadow. Rest in peace, Hunter, you brilliantly fucked-up writer, you.

[p.s. If you haven't registered - anonymously or not - for access to the NYT archive, well, that's not my problem.] [link]

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2.22.05 - Via the link-dense Incoming Signals, some astonishingly detailed amateur science at the Seabirds Skull Gallery. [link]

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2.22.05 - For Matt R., without whom I wouldn't be blogging again, a reminder that it's always worth fighting the assholes. [link]

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12.15.04 - "I think there was not a full appreciation of the realities in Iraq" Here's the link to that revealing August 2004 article, mentioned on tonight's show, about recent Medal of Freedom winner Tommy Franks. Sure is nice that this gentleman, who oversaw the most seriously bungled U.S. military operation of the past 30 years, is getting so richly rewarded for his success. [link]

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12.08.04 - Ok, so I've been quiet for a while and am admittedly not in a great position to criticize, but come on, NC bloggers. Isn't it just a teensy bit sad that links to the best pictures I've found of the well-attended Nov. 21 Carolina Rollergirls expo came from a blogger in Texas? Yeesh. I guess I do need to post more often.

For the record, the Rollergirls' first serious bout, held at the Skate Ranch in Raleigh, was surprisingly hard-hitting and intense, complete with announcers, cheerleaders, half-time fun, post-game awards and aggressive play from both teams. The all-ages crowd included grandparents and young kids responding in equally exciting ways, and the match demonstrated (to me, anyway) that the Carolina Rollergirls are serious about doing roller derby right. They seem intent on avoiding stupid punching matches in favor of actually playing the game, which appears to set them apart from many of the other all-girl teams springing up around the country in recent years. Go Carolina.

Anyone with, um, concerns about the feminist implications of a sexy, aggressive all-girl sport should meditate on a) the fact that women of all shapes and sizes play together and b) this article from the Dallas Morning News, which captures the contradictions nicely:

Playing a game that's punctuated with cursing and fighting might be the extreme in girl-power, but the attire the women wear seems a bit anti-feminist at first. There are a lot of splayed legs and exposed midriffs in roller derby. Not to mention penalties that include spankings doled out by audience members. But if that's all you see on the track, then you're not paying attention, say the women. Because the game is about much, much more.

For some of them, roller derby is the outward expression of a midlife crisis. For others, it's an opportunity to enjoy a sport that's intensely physical, intensely visceral and just plain fun. But most of all, roller derby is the perfect venue for a woman to explore all her polar opposites: the demure and the sexy, the coy and vamp, the good and the bad. Spokeswoman Louisa Brinsmade, aka Mau-Mau when playing with the Hellcats, puts it this way: Roller derby gives one permission to be a total woman.

"If you watch a roller derby bout you have the really ... sexy part of it, and you have this amazing physical prowess going on, and you have the real spitfire intensity of passion. ... It will come out in fights, in major plays. It will come out in the way that we relate off the track and after the bout.

"We're sort of trying out and using all of the strengths that women have," she says. "The power of seduction and the power of being sexy and the power of being strong. All of it is combined into what I think, as a whole, many women are made of."

"In many ways, this is a feminist movement," says Chola. "We're just being as bad as we want to be, doing what we love, and being ourselves."

Whether you buy that line or not will depend, I suppose, on your cynicism about gender roles. But, really, the only way to figure out your personal level of support for woman-organized roller derby in North Carolina is to see a match with your own eyes. The Carolina Rollergirls' first season starts soon after the holidays. [link]

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12.02.04 - Nice to see the world's best collaborative Web site still delivering regularly. Via MeFi's always-bubbly madamjujujive (of fabulous Everlasting Blort fame), an amazing collection of links to the delightfully meditative world of freelance rock balancing. Dunno about you, but I love shit like this. [link]

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12.01.04 - Here's the text of that much-discussed Economist article noting that the number of voters who cite "moral values" as their top priority has declined precipitously since 1996. It's a fairly dense piece, but worth it for the way it teases out the various strains of this allegedly strong, new churchward tilt (yeah, right) in the U.S. electorate. And here's the link to the full data from that absurdly over-emphasized exit poll. Anti-equality Democrats like Erskine Bowles should pay particular attention to this question:

Which comes closest to your view of gay and lesbian couples:
They should be allowed to legally marry: 25% of all voters
(77% of these folks voted for Kerry, 22% for Bush)
They should be allowed to legally form civil unions, but not marry: 35% of all voters (47% of these folks voted for Kerry, 52% for Bush)
There should be no legal recognition of their relationships: 37% of all voters
(29% of these folks voted for Kerry, 70% for Bush)

Did you catch that, Erskine? A whopping 60% of all voters in that oh-so-moral exit poll pool support either legal marriage or civil unions for queer citizens. So where's this supposed clear evidence that any sign of acceptance of gay rights is a deadly third rail in modern politics? Answer: there is no such evidence, and only a coward or fool would say otherwise. [link]

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