Tuesday, December 31, 2002

"The city, for the first time in its long history, is destructible. A single flight of planes no bigger than a wedge of geese can quickly end this island fantasy, burn the towers, crumble the bridges, turn the underground passages into lethal chambers, cremate the millions. The intimation of mortality is part of New York now; in the sounds of jets overhead, in the black headlines of the latest editions."

from "Here Is New York" by E.B. White (published in 1949)

Thursday, December 26, 2002

Village Voice article on my favorite of the new proposed designs for the World Trade Center area. The THINK team's design allows for a construct that's actually taller than the original, yet isn't actually office space.

Its elegant latticework provides a haunting reminder of where the Trade Centers once were. It even incorporates beams of light like the popular, but short-lived Towers of Light did. New buildings would actually be constructed inside this latticework, as would an observation deck at the same height as the original one, and a memorial could be constructed high up in the sky where the planes actually hit. Best of all, this design is actually for a World Cultural Center instead of another World Trade Center. What a fitting way to replace these buildings originally devoted to commerce and show the world that the United States isn't just about the almighty dollar after all.

"The mission of reconstructing the skyline is one that is proposed at a cultural level," said architect Rafael Viñoly, who unveiled the design. "Should we reconstruct it with the offices of Merrill Lynch? We don't think so. The need is a cultural need. Almost in the same way, the Eiffel Tower became the symbol of Paris, and it is an empty building. This is an empty building."

I find this design to be the most aesthetically and philosophically compelling of all those submitted to date.

Monday, December 23, 2002

Avoiding the Words for fear of the Wounds

"After the tragic events of September 11th . . .." How many times have you heard that phrase? It's a cliché! How can something like that - a euphemism already - turn into a cliché? We can't even talk about it, face it head on.

"Post 9/11 . . .." OK, that one makes more sense. It's brief, punchy; it carries a lot of utilitarian value. After all, we can't always be staring into the horrible dark maw. We can't begin every mention of 9/11 with some godawful, weepy pre-amble, but it saddens me that we hafta talk around this thing. We can't afford to do anything but face this reality head on. As a doctor, wide-eyed, faces a horrible cancer before he slips the sharpened scalpel into skin and excises it, slippery, neat and horrid from the festering flesh.

And that applies to so much else that horrible in the world around us. We have to face the horror before we can surmount it. We can't just glide on blissfully by.

Whole Lotta Nerve

Trent Lott again revealed his bizarre and biased mindset when he blamed his downfall on the fact that he's a conservative and a Christian:

"There are people in Washington who have been trying to nail me for a long time," he said. "When you're from Mississippi and you're a conservative and you're a Christian, there are a lot of people that don't like that. I fell into their trap and so I have only myself to blame." CNN

Of course, he ends his statement by saying he has only himself to blame, but the clear indication is that he believes he became a target because of his Christian beliefs. What? Lott lives in the one country on earth where Christians are least likely to be criticized or discriminated against! He lives in a country where it's a taboo to criticize Christianity at all. Try it and you'll labelled a devil worshipper or worse.

So what has this guy been smoking? The only conclusion I can draw is that his definition of "Christian" is a far narrower one than that of the average American Christian. Maybe "Christian" to him means "fundamentalist." I dunno.

Whale of a Tale

Snake-charmer Michael Drosinin has a sequel to the Bible Code out: The Bible Code II: The Countdown. Amazon describes it as "This is the thrilling sequel to the #1 bestseller that shook the world." Thrilling? When it opens by cashing in on the events of 9/11/01?

From the first chapter:

"At 8:48 A.M. on September 11, 2001 I was awakened by the sound of an explosion that changed the world forever.

I turned on my clock radio and heard a news bulletin-a jumbo jet had crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers.

I ran up to my roof just in time to see a second Boeing 767 fly right into the second of the Twin Towers, setting it ablaze. It was obviously no accident. The two planes had been hijacked by terrorists. New York was under attack."

I'd say Drosnin is just cashing in on our newly refreshed apocalyptic fears, but maybe he really believes this stuff, maybe his eyes have been clouded by his own theory. That would be a generous appraisal. For immediately after watching the towers come down he goes on to say:

"I ran down from the roof and immediately searched the ancient code on my computer, the Bible code. It was the one place I might find confirmation of the full danger, and a revelation of what was yet to come.

The hidden code, discovered in the Bible by a famous Israeli mathematician, had already revealed other world-shaking events that took place thousands of years after the Bible was written.

Now it revealed the entire event I had just witnessed. What I watched from my roof only minutes earlier, was there in detail on my computer screen in ancient Hebrew characters."

For clear, to-the-point debunking of the Bible Code, check out this site.

The site takes up Drosnin's challenge: "When my critics find a message about the assassination of a prime minister encrypted in Moby Dick, I'll believe them" (Newsweek, Jun 9, 1997). The writer shows how you find the "prophecies" of several world leaders in Moby Dick if you go looking hard enough for them. From my own reading of his book, I can tell you that his methods for divining prophecies leave room to find literally anything foretold in any book.

See also:



Why my particular interest in debunking this book? Because there's enough superstitious tripe being peddled in this world and attended to with solemnity without piling more onto the heap. I originally gave this book two stars - I should've given it one: It's simplistic, pseudo-intellectual, and perhaps intentionally misleading claptrap. If Drosnin didn't intend to mislead, he certainly stretched the "truth" to fit his theory. Even someone with an elementary knowledge of statistics could tell you that this "phenomenon" could easily be replicated in any work of literature.

If what I've said sounds a little harsh to you, I hope you'll ignore me and read the above material anyway - if only to get another viewpoint.

Whereas as the mainstream press (and I mean Time and Newsweek, not the National Enquirer) is usually a little more skeptical of this type of stuff, they seem to be giving Drosnin a free ride with this rubbish, since I suppose they stand to make a few bucks off the sensational nature of his vapid tome.

Saturday, December 21, 2002

So Trent Lott finally went down yesterday. He made the announcement after apologizing for his statements five times (or more depending on how you count). The blood was in the water and increasingly that blood was let by his fellow Republicans, as they came to better understand the impact his remaining the top dog in the Senate could have for the future of the party. So he had to go, obviously. Ain't politics grand.

Can you imagine the conversations he must have had with some of his best friends before he made his announcement yesterday? "Trent, I know you're not a racist. Most of your Republican friends know you're not a racist. But for the good of the party . . . man, you gotta step down." Sniff, sniff. Because, no doubt, many of his friends are just as blind to their own prejudices.

And they'll continue to pander to that whole spectrum of folks in the future: everything from those who pine for the days of the Old South, to those who explain about segregationist policies and slavery and racism that "you have to understand, it was different times back then" to even the shameless frothing at the mouth neo-nazi types. Of course, the last of these groups, to be fair, the Republicans will actually go out their way to avoid, and, I believe, truly do disagree with. But the Republican Party should ask itself (should have already, not just now), why are these types always attracted to the Republican Party? I don't think I've ever heard an honest answer to that question. Then again, I don't think I've heard the question asked.

Bill Clinton reacted with what I thought was a glorious eruption of righteous anger to the events within the Republican Party this week. As reported on CNN, the former President said it was "pretty hypocritical" of Republicans to criticize Lott for stating publicly what he said the GOP does "on the back roads every day." Preach it brother. "How do they think they got a majority in the South anyway?" he said. "I think what they are really upset about is that he made public their strategy."

Saturday, December 14, 2002

The Bush Cabinet vs. The Will of the People

This list hopes to be a comprehensive, growing catalog of the outrageous beliefs and behavior of Bush cabinet members: men and women whose views clearly do not represent those of the average American.

John Ashcroft, Attorney General

  • Anti-Gay Beliefs: Ashcroft believes homosexuality is a sin. Source: Washington Post
  • Narrow-Mindedness: Ashcroft also believes it's wrong to dance, drink or gamble. Source: Reason

  • Prudishness: Ashcroft spent $8000 of taxpayers' money to cover the exposed breast on the art deco statue, "The Spirit of Justice," at the Justice Department. Source: BBC

  • Religious Intolerance: Ashcroft told Bob Jones University: "America is different. We have no king but Jesus." Source: CNN

  • Trent Lott, Senate Majority Leader - Resigned

  • Anti-Gay Beliefs: In 1998 on the Armstrong Williams Show Lott declared homosexuality a sin and lumped homosexuals with alcoholics and kelptomaniacs. Source: PBS

  • Latent Bigotry: No doubt, Lott does not believe himself a racist. His record seems to indicate otherwise. Source: NYT

  • Senator Don Nickles, future Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee

  • Anti-Gay Beliefs: Nickles was against James Hormel's nomination to be U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg. Source: Slate He told Fox News Sunday, "One might have that lifestyle, but if one promotes it as acceptable behavior, I don’t think they should be a representative of this country. I think it's immoral behavior, and I think a lot of other behavior is immoral and shouldn't be treated as acceptable behavior."

  • Feel free to contribute your own examples, but please provide a reliable source for your information. I'd like this to be a truly authoritative catalog. In every case, I've found the allegations in multiple reliable sources, but I have listed only a single source, purely for the sake of economy.

    Excellent NYT piece by Paul Krugmanon how the Republicans (at least those in power) jockey for respect with both racist and tolerant folk alike. See also Joshua Micah Marshall's stream of articles which helped instigate the whole Trent Lott controversy.

    Lott has become emblematic of this whole issue. No doubt, Lott doesn't even believe he's a racist. Just like the folks at Bob Jones University who didn’t allow blacks to attend until 1971 and long stood against interracial marriage. The school only recently (March 2000) got rid of a rule which restricted students of different races from dating. According to a report I heard the other night on BBC radio, Lott came out in defense of the school's policy at one time. Nice.

    By the way, I went to school there. I had friends affected by the policy. Friends who were asked to stop dating. They got rid of the rule when Bob Jones Jr died (the current president is Bob Jones III - they like to keep the school in the family), but I know the sentiment persists. Getting rid of the rule may even have only been a matter of political convenience. I do think that perhaps after Bob Jones Jr died, the door was opened for some things to loosen up there a little. We're speaking very relatively, of course. Still no movies, no ciggies or booze. No rock 'n' roll. No kissing and cuddling or sex before marriage either. Nonetheless, the words of Reverand Lovejoy seem appropriate: "Let me just remind you that the church is changing to meet the needs of today's young Christians."

    So here's a slender ray of hope: it really seems that gradually, over the decades, even the most conservative groups are moving towards more tolerant and liberal behavior. I'm not prophesying Nirvana in our lifetime. But maybe things are getting better. Let's just hope we don't blow ourselves to kingdom come before we get there.

    On that thought, some scientists believe that the reason we've never been contacted by extraterrestrial life forms is because by the time they develop the means to communicate with us, they’ve also developed nuclear technology and they terminate themselves before they’ve had much of a chance to ring us up. Nice thought, huh?

    On a lighter note, I'd like to start a list of wacky beliefs and behavior by the blokes in the Bush cabinet. So if you happen upon this and can send me examples, please do. You know, stuff like John Ashcroft spending $8000 of taxpayers' money to cover the exposed breast on the art deco statue, "The Spirit of Justice," at the Just Department. Bizarro stuff like that. Or in 1999 when Ashcroft told Bob Jones (see a pattern here?): "America is different. We have no king but Jesus." Wow, the Kennedys must have been offended. Honestly, these people don't represent the views of the average American, do they?

    Monday, November 18, 2002

    If anyone clicks on this link below I believe I earn points towards a DVD player or something. It's for the CSI telly show. Or the soundtrack for the CSI telly show actually.

    Click Here to be Sucked into Yet Another Predatory Marketing Vortex

    You probably hafta sign up or something, but what the hey. I'm only taking up cyberspace. "Cyberspace." Boy, that term already sounds quaint and outdated, doesn't it? Kinda like "the information super highway." Silly now, isn't it? Don't hear it any more, do you? In fact, you hardly even hear "the world wide web" anymore either. Just "the web" thanks. We can't handle too many syllables at once for a single count noun object.

    Notice also my quaint and naive use of the words "Click Here" in the self-serving link above. I'm pretending not to be web savvy. Am considering adding a huge image map next.

    Oh, and to learn more about the aforementioned marketing operation Click Here, my Discerning and Highly-Favored Friend.

    (Yes, I'm altering the HTML these dudes provide on their site. Ain't I a rebel? Living right out there on the friggin' edge, I am.)

    Saturday, November 16, 2002

    Folks interested in the field of information architecture will want to check out the latest edition of the O'Reilly (or Polar Bear) book Information Architecture for the World Wide Web by IA gurus Lou Rosenfeld and Peter Moreville. It's no understatment to call this book the Bible for information architecture.

    Monday, September 30, 2002

    Will Self is knocking the Booker Prize for not recognizing superior writers like Martin Amis and J. G. Ballard and for generally going with safer authors. Good on 'im. You'd think the Brits were better than that. Self's scathingly satirical Great Apes was one of my favorite books in recent years.

    Thursday, September 26, 2002

    Well, I'm sure I wasn't the first to mention Atlas Shrugged and Enron (and friends) in the same sentence; neither will I be the last. USA Today weighs in. Well, "weigh" may not be the right word. But the paper does point out that "CEOs put the book down knowing in their hearts that they are not the greedy crooks they are portrayed to be in today's business headlines but are heroes like the characters in Rand's novel." I'm assuming the paper's being ironic.

    From Metropolis magazine, an incredible first-person account of architect Laurie Balbo's flight from the World Trade Center last September. Bablo wrote this piece at the recommendation of a counselor. It's gripping, written with tremendous immediacy, effectively reminding us of the incomprehensible horror experienced by thousands on that day.

    "Before that Tuesday,"she writes, "the benchmark of my life had been childbirth. This experience blew that one away. It was bigger, meaner, louder, and more public. It was raw and it was fast. It defies placement in a natural order, too monstrous to ever digest."

    Monday, September 23, 2002

    New York Times interview with Peter Saville, the charming and eccentric designer of those, well, charming and eccentric New Order album covers.

    We still appear to be making war with Iraq. I still haven't heard any good reasons for this, especially after Iraq's promised to allow inspectors in. Hussein finally meets our demands and we're coming anyway? Who's the promise breaker now? Why are we throwing cartons of matches on the fire? A year after 9/11 and I'm back to feeling deeply disturbed and sad again.

    Wednesday, September 18, 2002

    Donald Rumsfeld today said we shouldn't wait to attack Iraq until we have a smoking gun. "If we wait for a smoking gun in this instance," he reasoned "we'd find it after the fact. That's a little late." Brilliant stuff. No chicken or egg quandary there.

    Governed by this mentality, should we beat up all the bullies in our neighborhood before they punch us out? Should we go lock up all the folks we think might commit murders in the future? Call it the Minority Report mentality. Saddam may be a bona fide monster, but he still hasn't managed anything remotely resembling an attack on the United States. Has he attacked and invaded his neighbors? Certainly. Is that why we're threatening to attack him? Hardly.

    So, if we're going to attack Iraq, let's blow up North Korea and the rest of the Middle East while we're at it. They may attack us one day, too.

    Iraq has finally agreed to allow UN inspectors in to do their jobs. And because of *this* Bush and his cronies are incensed? Kofie Annan accepts a letter from Iraq allowing inspectors back in without consulting the Security Council. And for this Bushites are fuming? Obviously, they're angry because it undermines their friggin' war effort. Shouldn't it be the policy of the United States to avoid war? That's the essence of the Powell Doctrine, framed by the man who's been remarkably silent on the issue over the past few months--until now that the inspectors have been allowed back in and war looks less likely. It's a shame when a man with backbone like Colin Powell is the one relegated to the wings while all the dippy, adolescent-minded politicos yammer and wave their hands in their breathless efforts to engage the war effort.

    I'm more afraid of what Bush, Donald Rumsfeld and John "The Baptist" Ashcroft will do to this country in the next year or two than Saddam Hussein. And what they'll do now that'll have unknown and potentially horrific repercussions in the years from now.

    Tuesday, September 17, 2002

    Absolutely brilliant cartoon by David Rees, "Get Your War On," satirizing the War on Terrorism. Dilbert meets Doonesbury, only way more piercing, way edgier. Warning: Not at all for the faint of heart. Not coming to a family newspaper near you any time soon.

    Also, read "Only Love and then Oblivion," a Guardian article on 9/11 by one of my favorite authors, Ian McEwan.

    Wednesday, September 11, 2002

    911 Statistics

    3025 number of people who died last September 11, 2001 as a result of the terrorist attacks
    3044 if you count the hijackers on those planes
    2,801 number of confirmed dead at the WTC
    19,858 the number of human body parts recovered from Ground Zero
    10,000 approximate number of children lost a parent due to the events on September 11th
    10 percentage of those killed were emergency workers–people who entered the buildings after they were struck
    5 number of dollars a man from the poor nation of Malawi scraped together to help the richest nation through its time of grief
    105 babies have been born to widows of September 11th victims
    83,000 individuals lost New York jobs
    600,000 pints more than usual donated in September and October
    21,000 number of bombs dropped on Afghanistan over the past year
    2 billion dollars per month it costs America to engage the war on terrorism

    These statistics were taken from no single source. I just noted them when and wherever they hit me. That being said, The New York Times hit me more often than not. Please email me if you come across an appropriate one.

    It's now barely into 9/11-02. Everything's quiet, and I hope it stays that way. Earlier this evening I came across this powerful new poem, "When the Towers Fell" by one of my favorite poets, Galway Kinnell, in The New Yorker. I had some thoughts of my own about 9/11 today and with any luck, I'll find time to put them down tomorrow. For now, my eyes are tired. They feel like they've been scrubbed with steel wool.


    Update: The New Yorker link is broken now, but here's a link to another copy of Kinnell's poem.

    Wednesday, August 28, 2002

    Save Free Speech, Support Steve Earle!

    Steve Earle is currently being vilified for his new album Jerusalem (not even released yet) by various folks, mainly of the knee-jerk right-wing variety. He's written a song called John Walker's Blues which some claim is anti-American and compares John Walker Lindh (remember the "American Taliban"?) with Jesus. No, it doesn't. It attempts to get into the mind of Lindh and show us what this misguided kid might have been thinking when he was wandering around the desert in Afghanistan like John the the Baptist, getting hairier but not getting any wiser. So yes, this is yet another case of folks mistaking the voice of the narrator in a work of art for the voice of the writer. Anyway, some of these folks are suggesting we boycott stores selling the CD, radio stations playing it, etc--your usual anti free-speech, let's repeal the Bill of Rights stuff. Though so far, I haven't heard of anyone trying to ban the CD itself. Yet.

    The Nation recently covered the right's attack on Earle as has Salon. The New York Times published an interview with Earle in which he explains the song as well as his thoughts on the John Ashcroft and Dick Cheney. He also clearly explains his thoughts about Lindh and the Taliban on his web site: "I don't condone what he did. Still, he's a 20 year-old kid. My son Justin is almost exactly Walker's age. Would I be upset if he suddenly turned up fighting for the Islamic Jihad? Sure, absolutely. Fundamentalism, as practiced by the Taliban, is the enemy of real thought, and religion too."

    If you haven't heard Earle's music, he's a tough, gravelly-voiced "country" singer who's music isn't likely to be played on your local country station any time soon. He had a hit back in the '80s with Copperhead Road, then spent a stint in jail for heroin possession. After recovered from his addiction, Earle entered an incredibly creative and productive period of his life: he's released 7 albums in the past 8 years, written a book of short stories, a play, and he's even appearing in the TV show, The Wire. He's a damn fine and thoughtful musician.

    Support free speech and go buy his new album, Jerusalem.

    Christopher Hitchens, a fine lefty writer, wrote a review of Martin Amis's new book Koba the Dread for this month's Atlantic Monthly. I had a problem with his review, so I wrote a letter:

    On Hitchen’s review of the Martin Amis’s Koba the Dread: I know far less about the events involved than Hitchens or Amis, and Hitchens writes far more authoritatively about the era than I ever could (and I enjoy reading his writing); however, he also (somehow) misses the point.

    Amis is absolutely correct: figuratively speaking, nobody does know about the horrors perpetrated under Stalin, not compared to Hitler's atrocities. In the language of argumentative hyperbole, simply read “nobody” as most of us, the overwhelming majority of us even. This hyperbole is understood; there’s no intention on the part of Amis to deceive by exaggeration here, as Hitchens would normally understand were his eyes not clouded by his personal engagement in the proceedings.

    "Nobody" does know of Yezhov and Dzerdzhinsky, nor of Vorkuta and Solovetski. The fact that there exists an apparently rich body of literature on the subjects, largely ignored by the rest of us certainly says something about our culture, our narrow attention spans, and perhaps most pointedly, the selective interests of the media, Hollywood and publishers (those informing everybody, feeding and shaping our limited interests). When the average person thinks of atrocity his mind jumps to Hitler. Stalin’s not even a close second. It's just Hitler. Why that is the case is a problem ripe for investigation. But Hitchens passes on this opportunity entirely.

    Instead, he focuses on those statements Amis makes which affected him most personally. The fact that the whole piece seems to center on this anti-nobody argument undermines Mr. Hitchens credibility since it soon dawns on the reader that the piece serves simply as an opportunity for the writer to lick his wounds, an opportunity to ask to be understood. He does nothing to dispel the visceral and obvious truth of Amis’s thesis.

    Thursday, February 28, 2002

    Added to Massive Attack's MemoryandDreamStorage just before midnight tonight:

    Sitting on a seaside cliff in Pusan, Korea, watching the waves crash on the rocks below and the little Korean ajimahs serving seafood from the big orange plastics tubs they squatted beside.


    This section of Massive's site allows you publish your own memories and dreams, which are then randomly displayed to site visitors. Memories are also searchable by subject (really a simple word search) and by year. Pretty cool idea, especially for vain folks like meself.

    Wednesday, February 13, 2002

    "You're perhaps the most accomplished confidence man since Charles Ponzi," Republican Senator Peter G. Fitzgerald told Kenneth L. Lay, former chairman of Enron yesterday. "I'd say you were a carnival barker, except that wouldn't be fair to carnival barkers. A carnie will at least tell you up front that he's running a shell game."

    From The New York Times.


    Thursday, January 17, 2002

    My short story "Daddy Buys a Buick" has been reprinted on Open Sewer. Thanks guys.

    If you're like me--a human being--you probably despise pop-up ads. That's why this site rocks. It provides links to help you opt out of certain pop-ups, including the ubiquitous, annoying X-10 ad. Unfortunately, that one has to be renewed. You can even permanently opt out of that $@&%ing comet cursor some apparently LSD-addled folk use on their sites.

    Sunday, January 13, 2002

    The Number One Propaganda Tract Masquerading as Literature of the Past Century

    Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

    It’ll take a while, maybe another hundred years, but eventually (I hope) this book will fall right out of every top 10, top 100 list of books, as more and more folks understand it as an economic tract instead of a novel. (Consider maxims like “Money is the barometer of a society's virtue.”) Certainly, economic tracts deserve a place in the literary canon, alongside works like Marx's Das Kapital or Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations, but I don't believe Atlas Shrugged deserves to nestle with Lolita and Crime and Punishment (which manages to be philosophical without being a tract). Not just because Atlas Shrugged is a work of propaganda, but also because as fiction, it's not a work of creative significance. It's a step above the psychobabble of L. Ron Hubbard to be sure, but those two authors have more in common (in motivation if not in philosophy) with each other than they do with Nabakov or Dostoevsky.

    Libertarians love Rand because she consistently represents their worldview. In fact, many folks with varying philosophical backgrounds admire her; surely, however, they haven't considered the full implications of what she’s saying. Rand's most popular maxim was spoken in Atlas Shrugged and detailed in her collection of essay, “The Virtues of Selfishness": “I swear, by my life and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another human being, or ask another human being to live for mine.” I guess this mantra approximates "Do unto others as best suits yourself," which essentially means letting folks fend for themselves. I wonder in this post dotbomb era, in this age of Enronism, whether Rand might change her tune about the respective merits of capitalism and selfishness. What I see makes me ill. The rich getting richer off the backs of the poor even as they, the rich, know their enterprise is going down the drain. Unchallenged, capitalism uses people up. Beats the shit out of them, frankly. I'm no commie but I do believe that the idea that capitalism is a neatly and simply a superior operating principle, elegant in it's efficiency--that idea is born of naïveté, and perhaps, greed.

    By all accounts even Rand didn’t live by her popular maxim. Even she was more human than that. These sentiments are glib and simplistic; they might appear sensible at first blush, but raise chilling repercussions when you consider their ramifications. It sends a chill down my spine when so many describe it as the book (second only to the Bible, according to a joint survey conducted by the Library of Congress and the Book of the Month Club) that most changed their life. Her philosophy of Objectivism may be pro-individual (and I consider myself a strong individualist and even share many sentiments with libertarians) but I believe it’s anti-human. Principles of individualism have to be balanced with principles of community. (Capitalism has to be balanced with elements of socialism, if you like, not to conclude that these systems are always so easily divided.) We need a balance. That sounds simplistic and glib too, doesn’t it?
    To a certain extent, End of Year/Top 10 lists are a bloody waste of time: they're often simultaneously amusing and useless. They are useful if you happen to share the taste of the dude writing the list. Here then are a few useless, hopefully amusing lists:

    Top 10 Albums of 2001

    ·Arab Strap The Red Thread – Malcom Middleton's gruff, beautiful slow-core dirges. Ideal late-night listening for melancholics. "Love Detective" excites with it's driving piano and sordid lyrics. Longer songs like "The Long Sea" and "Screaming in the Trees," and "Turbulence," are almost terrifying in their dark, placid beauty. Belle and Sebastian with hair on their chests. Spare stuff. Nothing remotely twee or sentimental here.
    ·R.E.M.Reveal – Are the boys from Athens turning into the Beach Boys? You decide. Whatever their songs are still lovely, though alarmingly simple.
    ·AvalanchesSince I Left You – Aussie boys pull a collective DJ Shadow, dazzling millions. The album's still unnoticed here compared to it's popularity in their homeland.
    ·SpiritualizedLet It Come Down – Moody, symphonic rockin’ gospel. The Stones collide with the Beatles and Jesus in Jason Pierce’s cranium to great effect. I can’t stop listening to the 10-plus minute opus, “Won’t Get to Heaven.” A favorite of my favorites.
    ·Nitin Sawhney Prophecy – Had I the chance to buy it for a reasonable price in the United States, I suspect this would’ve been another favorite. Until I can find it, I'm enjoying a couple of mp3s. True world music. An artist people feel safe describing as "brilliant" with some regularity.
    ·TrickyBlowback – not a masterpiece to be sure, but I listened to this a lot. Oddly inspired accompaniment from the Chili Peppers and Cyndi Lauper.
    ·Air 10,000 Hz Legend – Bizarre, campy fun. Under-appreciated effort, no doubt, because it wasn’t a carbon copy of the French duo’s previous efforts. Still laugh when I hear the “I think you should quit smoking” response to the goofy 10cc-ish, “How does it make you feel?”
    ·GorillazGorillaz – OK, so I don’t own this one, but I’ve heard a few tracks. It’s made a lot of end-of-year lists, and I’m a fan of those involved. Kooky, original sounds.
    ·New Order Get Ready – Don’t got this one yet either, but glad to see the boys back and loving what I’ve heard. OK some of the lyrics are weak, but New Order’s always been a little lyrically challenged. They’re masters at forging crystalline-perfect pop sounds, though.
    ·Shuggie Otis Inspiration Information – Best re-release. First released in 1974 when Otis was 22.

    [Coldplay's album Parachutes was also a favorite this year, though technically it was released in 2000 and just didn't get noticed much over here until 2001. That piano entry into "Trouble" grabs me every time. And the video is georgeous.]

    Top 10 Movies of 2001

    ·Mulholland Drive – Disorienting. Thoughtful. Erotic. Also funny and intermittently satirical. Like Memento, this you’ll benefit from repeated viewings.
    ·In the Mood for Love – I haven’t seen this, but I’m a huge Wong Kar Wai fan and judging by the reviews, I’m going to love it. Great Aussie cinematographer continues his work with Wong, too.
    ·Amores Perros – Hurtling up from the southern hemisphere, a grittier Magnolia with bloody dog fights. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s unflinching portrayal of the lives that intersect at a car accident (the most viciously realistic car accident I’ve ever scene-the sound alone will cause you to shudder).
    ·Memento – Overrated? Maybe. But this notoriously twisted movie kept me on the edge of my seat. Of course there are holes, but it’s a lot closer to watertight than some folks who apparently weren’t watching closely could tell. Besides, I’m a sucker for film noir, as this list should reveal.
    ·Sexy Beast – Tough Brit-noir. Watching Ghandi (Ben Kingsley) curse like a roomful of sailors is one of the most entertaining (not to mention, frightening) things I saw all year. Great soundtrack by U.N.K.L.E., too.
    ·No Man's Land – Set in Bosnia - three men are caught in a ditch in the middle of No Man's Land, a battle field in the Bosnian war. Two of the men are Bosnians, one, a Serb. One of the Bosnians bickers and fights with the Serb while the other tries to lie still: he's lying on a landmine which while blow them all to kingdom come if he changes his position. The movie manages to satirize this sad war and many of it's attendant features: the role of the United Nations, for example, and the media. Dark, funny and informative.
    ·Amelie – Dangerously close to saccharine, but with enough restraint to avoid preciousness (most of the time). I admired Amelie for its humanity and its effusive inventiveness. Makes most other films look drab and devoid of creativity.
    ·The Man Who Wasn’t There – The Cohen brothers transform Billy Bob Thornton into Bogart in this beautiful black and white film noir. Some critics complained of Thornton’s cold, close demeanor. Duh, it’s called the Man Who Wasn’t There.
    ·The Pledge – Criminally overlooked. Reasonably nuanced performance from Nicholson. Lotsa folks will HATE the ending and I applaud Penn for leaving it that way. Folks who say the ending doesn’t make sense must’ve slept through the movie. Folks who got it, but didn’t like probably prefer Pollyanna endings or more rock ‘n’ roll sledgehammer ones like the one in Seven. Whereas Seven’s ending was for shock value, The Pledge’s is replete with philosophical (existential) meaning.
    ·The Tailor of Panama – John Boorman's lean, stylish and subtle thriller. Pierce Brosnan plays a bad guy spy way better than a good one. Geoffrey Rush is dignified and touching. The emphasis is definitely on character development over action, which is why I enjoyed it while others may ask, "That was a spy movie?"

    [I’d likely have included more foreign and independent movies had they been shown here in Charlotte – if they were, they disappeared long before I had the chance to see them]

    Biggest Disappointment of 2001

    ·Planet of the Apes – No competition. Largely plotless, poor characterization, deus ex machina ending. How the hell did horses get on the planet? Oh, the make-up was superb.

    Saturday, January 12, 2002

    2001 was the worst year in the history of Generation X. Maybe that ain't saying much, since we're supposed to be The Pampered Generation. (Of course they say that, but my generation actually seems to be teeming with anxiety-ridden type As, always pushing themselves further onward to the next goal [yes, goals as fixes], never satisfied with their current state, never happy with themselves.)

    2002 finds me continuing to freelance and living in south Charlotte. I've just started a rather large project with First Union/Wachovia: I'm helping design their intranet. Which means this blog ain't gonna be updated too often--as promised on day one.

    May the best of 2001 be your worst of 2002. (And that wouldn't be hard, eh?)

    Ya'll be careful out there.